Page last updated at 02:23 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

US Marines arrive to bolster Haiti quake efforts

Police fire gun shots to disperse looters in Port-au-Prince

More than 2,000 US Marines are set to join 1,000 US troops on the ground in Haiti, as aid efforts gather pace a week after a devastating earthquake.

Their arrival comes amid violence and looting, and as UN and US forces pushed back a crowd at Port-au-Prince's airport gate by firing baton rounds.

UN head Ban Ki-moon said he would recommend a 3,500 boost to police and troop numbers to the Security Council.

People have been continuing to flee the capital, with many seeking US visas.

The BBC's Mark Doyle in Port-au-Prince, the capital, says perhaps 5,000 people have lined up outside the US embassy, desperate to join relatives among the large Haitian-American community in the US.

But UN humanitarian chief John Holmes played down worries over security, saying that despite incidents of violence, the overall situation was calm.

Matt Frei
Matt Frei, BBC News, Port-au-Prince

Looting is now the only industry here and this is the new rush hour of Port-au-Prince.

Anything will do as a weapon: a hacksaw, a stick, and of course all the machetes and guns that you cannot see.

Patience is running out and all the ingredients for unrest now exit: a whole city of destitute hoping for help, and at the same time you have a substantial criminal element and a history of violence. None of this bodes well for Haiti.

If the anarchy spreads, the US troops may soon find themselves patrolling the streets in what will look like a full-scale military operation.

And the leading US general in Haiti, Lt Gen Ken Keen, said there was currently less violence in Port-au-Prince - already a troubled city - than there had been before the earthquake.

Earlier, Gen Keen said up to 200,000 people might have died in the disaster, which he said was of "epic proportions".

Aid effort 'improving'

More than 2,200 US Marines arrived off the coast of Haiti on Monday aboard the amphibious ship USS Bataan, US media reported.

They are equipped with heavy-lifting and earth-moving equipment, a dozen helicopters and medical support facilities.

Delivering aid to the centre of the capital is getting much more difficult, as anger fuelled by hunger reaches boiling point, and military escorts are needed for lorries carrying supplies, the BBC's David Loyn in Port-au-Prince says.

US Navy helicopters have been dropping packages of ready-to-eat meals and water from the air, but they can only feed a few people at a time, our correspondent adds.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has said it is now feeding some 100,000 people, stressing that security is a major challenge.

Bill Clinton: 'There's no question it's not enough, not quick enough'

Former US President Bill Clinton, who is a UN Special Envoy to Haiti, visited the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince on Monday.

He said he had been told before his trip that it needed medicine and power generators.

"We need very specific things that there is a shortage of," he said. "That is what I tried to do today. I called this hospital... and we said tell us very specifically everything you need and that's what we brought down."

Lt Cdr Walter Matthews of the US Navy told the BBC he understood the frustration among Haitians but that the aid effort was improving.

Criminal gangs

Luca Pupulin, of the French charity Acted, told the BBC he had seen many people heading north away from the capital.

He said: "I think on the whole the community is trying to do its best, but they are getting very frustrated.

"A couple of days ago we went through the main market street - people were getting aggressive with each other and pillaging."

"The security situation is getting worse by the hour. I think the criminal gangs, totalling some 3,000, are going to exploit the current humanitarian crisis to the maximum degree," Stuart Page, the head of a security company operating in Port-au-Prince, told the BBC.

The BBC's Matt Frei, in Port-au-Prince, says looting is now the main industry in the city and is being run by rival gangs.

Especially prized is toothpaste, which people smear under their noses to fend off the stench of decaying corpses, the Associated Press news agency says.

Airport complaints

Port-au-Prince's port is badly damaged, and many roads are still blocked by corpses and debris, hampering the delivery of fuel and other supplies.

More than 70 people have been pulled from the wreckage in the last few days
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes

Several agencies complained at the weekend about not being able to get aid through the heavily congested airport, which is being run by the US military.

But Mr Holmes said that initial issues were being resolved, with the introduction through the WFP of a system to prioritise humanitarian flights.

As hopes of finding survivors fade, Mr Holmes told reporters that there were now 43 search and rescue teams on the ground, with 1,700 people involved.

"More than 70 people have been pulled from the wreckage in the last few days," he said.

At least 70,000 people who died in the earthquake have already been buried.

Meanwhile, Haitian President Rene Preval has asked donors also to focus on Haiti's long-term needs.

"We cannot just cure the wounds of the earthquake. We must develop the economy, agriculture, education, health and reinforce democratic institutions," he said.

Aid workers are starting to expand their efforts to earthquake-affected areas outside the capital, including Leogane, Gressier, Petit-Goave and the coastal town of Jacmel.

Aid pledges

On Monday, Mr Ban also said he would recommend that the UN Security Council boost UN troop numbers in Haiti by 2,000 for six months, and UN police numbers by 1,500.

EU - $604m (420m euros; £371m)
US - $100m pledged in immediate aid, with promise of more later
UK - $32m
Norway - $17.6m
France - $14.4m
World Bank - $100m

Mr Ban, who visited Port-au-Prince on Sunday, added: "The heartbreaking things I saw yesterday compel us to act swiftly and generously."

The UN has launched an appeal for $562m (£346m) intended to help three million people for six months, most of whom are thought to need emergency relief.

European Union nations have pledged more than 420m euros ($604m; £320m) from the EU budget to assist Haiti. At least 200m euros will be dedicated to funding medium- to long-term rebuilding efforts.

The British government has said it will treble its aid to Haiti to £20m ($32m).

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Telegraph Haiti earthquake: one week on aid effort finally gathers momentum - 2 hrs ago
The Independent Black Hawks bring relief from above for desperate Haitians - 7 hrs ago
Times Online America sends paratroopers to Haiti to help secure aid lines - 8 hrs ago
The Scotsman US troops land on president's lawn as Haiti aid row cools - 8 hrs ago
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Haiti aid relief steps up gear as US troops pour in - 9 hrs ago

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