Search for Survivors Offers Small Glimmer of Hope as Aid Trickles to Haiti
William Ide | Washington 18 January 2010
U.S. officials say a trickle of international aid is beginning to reach survivors of Haiti's massive earthquake, but impassable roads, limited airlift capability and other challenges are complicating that effort. As anger and restlessness escalate in the Hatian capital, Port-au-Prince, there were some signs of hope amid the destruction as rescue workers dug through crumbled buildings, and in some instances, freed trapped survivors.
The sound of applause rang out as rescue workers pulled Jens Christensen, a Danish United Nations worker, alive from the ruins of the U.N. mission headquarters in Haiti. Christensen was buried alive beneath the rubble for five days.
Dave Hutcheson, a U.S. rescue worker says Christensen appeared to be in good shape.
"It took us four hours to get to him," he said. "We saw him, we got a visual on him in about three [hours] and we had him out in four. He wasn't trapped physically around his body. He was trapped in an area."
Christensen was one of several survivors pulled from the rubble on Sunday. His rescue from the wreckage of the U.N.'s offices in Haiti came just minutes after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the site.
Mr. Ban, on a one-day trip to offer support, says, right now, the first priority of the U.N. is to save as many lives as possible.
"The destruction, the loss of life, are just overwhelming. Therefore, we need unprecedented international support to Haitian people," he said.
The international community is reaching out to Haiti with massive amounts of aid, but getting help to survivors is challenging.
The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, outlined some of the obstacles on ABC's "This Week" program.
"We are talking about 3.5-million people in need. We are talking about a significant degradation of what was already relatively weak infrastructure [in Haiti]. No port access, roads are difficult to get around," said Shah. "So what we are now doing is putting in place military assets. The [U.S.] aircraft carrier arrived this week. It has 19 helicopters, and a lot of the transport of commodities and supplies is through the helicopters."
More than a dozen aid centers have been set up in and around Port-au-Prince, and massive crowds materialize whenever shipments arrive.
In some cases, supplies have been parceled out with relative calm and order. But confrontations between aid-seekers and security personnel have also occurred, and, in some instances, delivery helicopters have been forced to leave prematurely, or drop supplies from the air.
Coordinating the arrival of massive quantities of aid and personnel from around the world to Port-au-Prince's small and damaged international airport has also proved challenging.
U.S. President Barack Obama has tapped two of his predecessors, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, to lead a private fundraising effort to assist and rebuild Haiti.
Clinton has said he will travel Monday to Port-au-Prince in his capacity as U.N. special envoy to Haiti.
In the midst of the disaster, many Haitians paused Sunday for worship in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation.
A female earthquake survivor says she is praying for herself and for her country, especially for those who are suffering and under the rubble.
Haitian authorities say tens-of-thousands of corpses have been buried in mass graves, and that the final death toll could reach 200,000.
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