Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Haiti quake aid effort hampered by blockages

Makeshift camps are sprouting up in Port-au-Prince

Bottlenecks and infrastructure damage have been holding up aid efforts in Haiti, where Tuesday's earthquake has left as many as 45,000-50,000 dead.

There is little sign of aid supplies beyond the airport, and correspondents cite increasing anger among survivors.

Many are spending another day without food and shelter in the ruined capital.

The US defence secretary said the Haiti relief effort was the main US priority in the western hemisphere, as an aircraft carrier arrived off the coast.

And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, said a hospital ship and more helicopters would be sent in the coming days, and 9-10,000 troops would be in or off Haiti by Monday.

On Friday, the UN said a total of about $270m (£165m) in international aid had been pledged so far for the relief effort.

It will launch an emergency appeal for $550m later on Friday, UN spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian said.


Nick Davis, Port-au-Prince

People are doing what they can to survive here in Port-au-Prince. Every morning the first jobs of the day involve getting the very basics.

Loaded with old plastic bottles or anything else that can hold water, they fill up where they can. Some from broken pipes from collapsed buildings, that still have a supply.

The relief effort is under way, the near constant buzz of planes landing with supplies can be heard overhead. On the ground the aid is materialising slowly.

There are still bodies on the streets, but for those who can afford it, those who can be identified, a decent burial. I saw six men carrying a roughly carved casket, singing as they walked toward the cemetery.

But for others, a less dignified burial, as mass graves have started to be used across the city.

On the ground, correspondents say there is little immediate sign of a co-ordinated relief effort.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) says that in total two million people will need food aid, but that it has so far managed to feed just 4,000.

Meanwhile the head of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said thousands of people were waiting for surgical treatment in Haiti's hospitals, AFP news agency reported.

Port-au-Prince's small airport is filled to capacity and US air traffic controllers have taken charge of air traffic control to help manage the influx of planes.

However because of fuel shortages, some aircraft are clogging up the tarmac. Meanwhile the port is too damaged to use and roads are blocked by debris.

The BBC's Andy Gallacher in Port-au-Prince says survivors are dying in huge numbers, and clean water, food and medical supplies are desperately needed.

"We hear on the radio that rescue teams are coming from the outside, but nothing is coming," said one man, Jean-Baptiste Lafontin Wilfried.

They want us to provide them with help, which is, of course, what we want to do
David Wimhurst
UN spokesman

David Wimhurst, a spokesman for the Brazilian-led UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said: "Unfortunately, they're slowly getting more angry and impatient."

The UN headquarters has collapsed and correspondents say there is little official presence in Port-au-Prince despite incidents of looting.

"Our biggest problem is insecurity," Delfin Antonio Rodriguez, the rescue commander from the neighbouring Dominican Republic, told AFP news agency on Friday.

"Yesterday they tried to hijack some of our trucks. Today we were barely able to work in some places because of that."

The WFP initially said its warehouses in Port-au-Prince been looted, but this was later denied.

"We do still have that 6,000 tonnes of food," spokeswoman Caroline Hurford told the BBC.

"Apparently there were unconfirmed reports of looting taking place but once our teams got down to the dockside they were able to see that there was some mistake."

Race against time


Shaul Schwarz, a photographer for Time magazine, told the BBC he had seen a roadblock formed with bodies of quake victims on a main road, south of the capital.

He said he believed this was an "act of anger" on the part of people who are not getting help.

About 45,000-50,000 people have died since Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake and 300,000 have been made homeless, the UN estimates.

US President Barack Obama said some US rescuers were already on the ground in Haiti and more were on their way.

Speaking on Thursday, he promised the country "every element of our national capacity, our diplomacy, and development assistance".

US defence secretary Robert Gates said the relief effort was the "highest priority for US military assets in this hemisphere", and all necessary resources would be made available.

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier has arrived in Haiti and the USS Bataan, carrying a marine expeditionary unit, is on its way.

Aid groups say it is a race against time to find trapped survivors.

Haiti street image

A British rescue team with heavy lifting gear and dogs has reached Haiti.

Other plane-loads of rescuers and relief supplies are arriving from China, the EU, Canada, Russia and Latin American nations.

Mr Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, working with Brazil, Canada and other countries, will organise a conference on reconstruction in Haiti, the French presidency has announced.

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