Shortages become acute on ground in Haiti (Second Lead)

January 15th, 2010 - 10:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Port-au-Prince, Jan 15 (DPA) Time was rapidly running out to find survivors from the devastating earthquake which struck Haiti this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned Friday.
Haiti woke up Friday with the critical 72-hour window to find survivors drawing to a close and without much of the international aid it so desperately needs. Transporting supplies and humanitarian workers has been hampered by poor roads and an airport unable to work to full capacity.

Search and rescue teams say 48 to 72 hours is the key window for reaching survivors, as humans cannot generally live without water for longer periods.

Some 15 areas of the city are reported to have been badly affected, with at least 70 per cent of buildings having been destroyed, the ICRC said.

Shock and sorrow were slowly morphing into frustration and anger at the government’s inability to deal with both the living and the dead. “(President Rene) Preval still hasn’t declared a state of emergency,” a disgusted aid worker told DPA.

As maimed and decaying bodies pile up on street corners of Port-au-Prince and the stench of death overwhelms the city, Haitians have plans to take matters into their own hands.

Some witnesses claimed that they had already laid bodies down outside the presidential palace as a mark of protest. On Friday, there are plans to take many of the bodies and line them up across the few useable roads.

A lack of water, power and fuel for generators was hampering aid efforts, the ability of medical centres to deliver services and making a difficult situation harder for ordinary citizens.

In addition to supplies already sent in, an ICRC cargo plane carrying 40 tonnes of medical supplies was expected to reach Haiti.

The UN said it would send more troops to Haiti, if needed, in order to help police the country, prevent violence and ensure the safety of aid workers distributing humanitarian supplies.

The UN already had some 11,000 people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere prior to the earthquake, the vast majority connected to the peacekeeping mission, but more might be needed for the developing situation in Haiti, the official said.

The International Organization for Migration said it had to stop aid distribution Thursday because of security concerns.

The Haitian Red Cross continued to operate on the basis of a preliminary estimate that 50,000 people were killed in the 7.0 magnitude quake which struck the impoverished nation on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, world leaders hope to organize an international aid conference for quake-struck Haiti as soon as possible, the French president’s office announced.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama agreed upon the initiative Thursday night, French authorities reported. Brazil and Canada are also involved in preparations.

Michael Kuehn, based in Haiti with the German association World Hunger Assistance, said that Haiti’s southern regions have also suffered massive damages and that he only regained contact with them late Thursday.

Kuehn said aid shipments have begun to arrive on US transporters and that a temporary hospital had been set up at the airport. But coordination remains difficult, because both the Haitian government and the local UN mission were so badly damaged.

He added that people remain traumatized: “They don’t feel comfortable staying in a building for too long and stay on the streets.” Many still have no idea about the status of missing family members.

“There are no words for what has happened here,” he said.

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