Friday, January 15, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: Desperate for aid, victims' anguish turns to rage, sparks looting

For the people of Haiti shock was giving way to despair and rage Friday as decaying bodies choked the streets of Port-au-Prince and aid workers struggled to distribute dwindling food, water and medical supplies.

As aid continued to pour into the devastated island nation, Cuba granted the U.S. government permission to fly through restricted air space on medical evacuation flights.

The deal, which pushes aside decades of Cold War animosity between Washington and Havana, will cut a precious 90 minutes off the one-way flight from Guantanamo to Haiti.

The air-bridge from Cuba could help open the logistical bottlenecks in Port-au-Prince that caused Haitians to receive just a trickle of aid as they face a fourth day of the earthquake crisis. United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the capital said people's anger is rising because aid hasn't been distributed quickly.

"I don't think that a word has been invented for what is happening in Haiti," said Liony Batista, the Food For the Poor project manager in Port-au-Prince."It is total disaster."

"We need food. The people are suffering. My neighbors and friends are suffering," Sylvain Angerlotte, 22, said. "We don't have money. We don't have nothing to eat. We need pure water."

An estimated 300,000 people have been left homeless with one in 10 homes in the capital destroyed, the UN said on Friday.

The U.N. World Food Program reported that its warehouses in the Haitian capital had been looted and it didn't know how much of its pre-quake stockpile of 15,000 tons of food aid remained.

Haitian police "are not visible at all," because many had to deal with lost homes and family members, said UN Mission spokesman David Wimhurst.

More than 300 troops of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division arrived at the Port au Prince airport overnight and others have arrived in nearby waters on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen told ABC's "Good Morning America."

"We have much more support on the way. Our priority is getting relief out to the needy people," he said.

About 5,500 U.S. soldiers and Marines are expected to be in Haiti by Monday. Their efforts will include providing security, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

The first U.S. military units are coordinating relief efforts at the airport. But since the 7.0-magnitude quake struck Tuesday, global efforts to deal within the disaster have been hampered by a damaged seaport and an airport that turned away civilian aid planes for eight hours Thursday because of a lack of space and fuel.