Quake-Striken Haitians Grow Desperate for Food, Supplies
VOA News 15 January 2010
Haitians are growing increasingly desperate waiting for food, water and medicine after a devastating earthquake left the capital in ruins and killed up to an estimated 50,000 people.
International troops and planeloads of supplies are arriving in Port-au-Prince. But humanitarian groups still do not have an organized way to deliver aid with roads blocked, phones out and a general lack of security.
Many planes have circled Port-au-Prince, waiting to access the overwhelmed airport. U.S. aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, arrived off the coast Friday to serve as a floating airport for rescue helicopters.
The United Nations estimates Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake left about 300,000 Haitians homeless.
Survivors - many of them struggling with their own injuries - are digging through the ruins of collapsed buildings looking for victims buried in the rubble.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Haitian President Rene Preval by phone Friday. Mr. Obama pledged full support for Haiti's immediate recovery effort and its long-term rebuilding effort.
Washington says it has received rare permission from Havana to use Cuban air space for aid and evacuation flights. That will reduce the time it takes to fly to and from the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The United States is sending more troops and ships to help Haiti. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the security situation is "okay" (acceptable), and that U.S. forces will focus on Haitians' immediate needs so the situation does not deteriorate.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the situation "dire." He said Friday U.N. peacekeepers and police are taking charge of law and order in Port-au-Prince. He said he will visit Haiti soon.
The U.N. says the international community has pledged $268.5 million in aid. It is asking for an additional $550 million for urgent needs, like food, water, medicine and tents.
The Red Cross estimates 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The World Health Organization recommends the bodies be placed in shallow ditches rather than mass graves.
Meanwhile, Haiti's exiled former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, says is he ready to return to his homeland to help rebuild the country. He has been living in South Africa since 2004.
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