Within days, the government will move 400,000 people made homeless by Haiti’s epic earthquake from their squalid improvised camps throughout the shattered capital to new resettlement areas on the outskirts, a top
Haitian official said Thursday.
Authorities are worried about sanitation and disease outbreaks in makeshift settlements like the one on the city’s central Champs de Mars plaza, said Fritz Longchamp, chief of staff to President Rene Preval.
“The Champ de Mars is no place for 1,000 or 10,000 people,” Longchamp told The Associated Press. “They are going to be going to
places where they will have at least some adequate facilities.”
He said buses would start moving people within a week to 10 days, once
new camps are ready. Brazilian U.N. peacekeepers were already leveling
land in the suburb of Croix des Bouquets for a new tent city, the
Geneva-based intergovernmental International Organization for Migration
The hundreds of thousands whose homes were destroyed in the Jan. 12
quake had settled in more than 200 open spaces around the city, the
lucky ones securing tents for their families, but most living under the
tropical sun on blankets, on plastic sheets or under tarpaulins strung
between tree limbs.
The announcement came as search-and-rescue teams packed their dogs and
gear Thursday, with hopes almost gone of finding any more alive in the
ruins. The focus shifted to keeping injured survivors alive, fending off
epidemics and getting help to the hundreds of homeless still suffering.
“We’re so, so hungry,” said Felicie Colin, 77, lying outside the ruins of
her Port-au-Prince nursing home with dozens of other elderly residents
who have hardly eaten since the earthquake hit on Jan. 12.
A melee erupted at one food distribution point as people broke into the
storehouse and fought each other over the bags.
As aftershocks still shook the city, aid workers streamed into Haiti
with water, food, drugs, latrines, clothing, trucks, construction
equipment, telephones and tons of other supplies. The international Red
Cross called it the greatest deployment of emergency responders in its
But the built-in bottlenecks of this desperately poor, underdeveloped
nation and the sheer scale of the catastrophe still left many of the
hundreds of thousands of victims without help. The U.S. military
reported a waiting list of 1,400 international relief flights seeking to
land on Port-au-Prince’s single runway, where 120 to 140 flights were
“They don’t see any food and water coming to them, and they are
frustrated,” said Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
Four ships managed to dock at the capital’s earthquake-damaged port,
holding out the promise of a new avenue for getting aid to the city. But
the going was slow since only one truck at a time could maneuver on the
The picture was especially grim at emergency medical centers, where
shortages of surgeons, nurses, their tools and supplies have backed up
“A large number of those coming here are having to have amputations,
since their wounds are so infected,” said Brynjulf Ystgaard, a Norwegian
surgeon at a Red Cross field hospital.
Food was reaching tens of thousands, but the need was much greater.
Perhaps no one was more desperate than the 80 or so residents of the
damaged Municipal Nursing Home, in a slum near the shell of
Port-au-Prince’s devastated cathedral. The quake killed six of the
elderly, three others have since died of hunger and exhaustion, and
several more were barely clinging to life.
“Nobody cares,” said Phileas Justin, 78. “Maybe they do just want us to
starve to death.”
In the first eight days after the quake, they had eaten just a bit of
pasta cooked in gutter water and a bowl of rice each. On Thursday, they
had a small bowl of spaghetti and five bags of rice and beans, and
cooking oil, were delivered.
A dirty red sheet covered the body of Jean-Marc Luis, who died late
Wednesday. “He died of hunger,” said security guard Nixon Plantin. On
Thursday, four days after The Associated Press first reported on the
patients’ plight, workers from the British-based HelpAge International
visited and said they would help.
One by one, such deaths were adding to a Haitian government-estimated
toll of 200,000 dead, as reported by the European Commission. It said
250,000 people were injured and 2 million homeless in the nation of 9
As U.S. troops began patrolling Port-au-Prince to boost security,
sporadic looting and violence continued.
At a building in the Carrefour neighborhood where the multi-faith Eagle
Wings Foundation of West Palm Beach, Florida, was to distribute food,
quake victims from a nearby tent camp suddenly stormed the stores and
made off with what the charity’s Rev. Robert Nelson said were 50 tons of
rice, oil, dried beans and salt. Fights broke out as others stole food
from the looters.
At least 124 people were saved by search-and-rescue teams since the
quake, the European Commission reported. As hopes faded, some of the
1,700 specialists, working in four dozen teams with 160 dogs, began
Joe Downey, a fire battalion chief from an 80-member New York City
police and firefighter unit, said this was the worst destruction his
rescue team had ever seen.
“Katrina was bad,” he said of the 2005 hurricane. “But this was a
magnitude at least 100 times worse.”
On Thursday, 18 hospitals and emergency field hospitals were working in
Port-au-Prince, but the burden was overwhelming.
Doctors said patients were dying of sepsis from untreated wounds and
they warned of potential outbreaks of diarrhea, respiratory-tract
infections and other communicable diseases in the camps. A team of
epidemiologists was on its way to assess that situation, the Pan
American Health Organization said.
Offshore, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort was reinforcing its crew
to 800 doctors, nurses and medical technicians, increasing its hospital
beds to almost 1,000, and boosting its operating rooms from six to 11 in
the next few days, the Navy said.
Almost $1 billion in foreign aid has been pledged to help Haiti recover
from the quake, and the White House said the U.S. share has climbed to
about $170 million.
The U.N. World Food Program said it has delivered at least 1 million
rations to about 200,000 people, with each ration providing the
equivalent of a daily three meals. In the coming days, it plans to
deliver five-day rations to 100,000 people a day, it said. The U.S.
military said it was resuming air drops of water and meals into zones
secured by U.S. troops. More than 2,600 U.S. soldiers, Marines and
airmen were on the ground, and more than 10,000 sailors and others were
offshore. The U.N. was adding 2,000 peacekeepers to the 7,000 already in
Haiti, and 1,500 more police to the 2,100-member international force.