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US leads relief operation with large military deployment

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-01-14

A large US military and civilian aid operation is underway to rescue Haitians still trapped under rubble following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake Tuesday. Millions of dollars in emergency funds have been pledged as the rescue effort gets underway.

A massive aid operation is underway in Haiti with dozens of international rescue teams and thousands of military personnel converging on the quake-hit Caribbean island.

Troops and planeloads of food and medical supplies are headed to assist stricken Haitians, still rattled by aftershocks from the massive earthquake that flattened homes, government buildings and buried countless people.

The US is leading relief efforts with 3,500 soldiers and 300 medical personnel while President Barack Obama underlined the effort by promising Haitians they would not be forgotten and by setting aside 100 million dollars in immediate aid.


Securing the relief effort


The Pentagon, meanwhile, is sending an aircraft carrier and three amphibious ships, including one that can carry up to 2,000 Marines. About 100 troops are scheduled to arrive "some time this evening" in Haiti, US army spokesman Gary Tallman told the AFP.

Foreign troops may be badly needed to ensure the safety of the main relief effort as the quake has rendered local authorities ineffective.

On Thursday, looters swarmed a supermarket in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince, brazenly taking away electronic equipment and bags of rice. Yet others were seen siphoning gasoline from a wrecked tanker. The main prison in Port-au-Prince also collapsed, allowing dangerous criminals to escape.

“The authorities that existed before the earthquake are not able to fully function. We’re going to try to support them as they re-establish authority,” US secretary of States Hillary Clinton told CNN.


Logistics nightmare


The logistics of relief efforts has also been complicated by the scale of the devastation. The local UN mission paid a heavy price in the earthquake, with at least 36 UN staffers confirmed dead in the collapse of the mission headquarters and more than 200 foreign staff still unaccounted for.

“In a traditional setting, either the country or the UN would be leading the efforts because they have the local knowledge to say what roads can be used, which logistical resources can be put at hand. But in this case, both actors have been heavily hit by the damage,” Rolando Tomasini, of the Humanitarian Research Group at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) said in an interview with FRANCE 24.


The international community has pledged millions of dollars in emergency funds to bolster rescue operations, deal with the massive devastation, and help rebuild the country, which has long been plagued by unrest, crime, and natural disasters.


Unable to cope


Haiti has been unable to cope on its own with the scale of the disaster. "All the morgues are full, the hospitals are overflowing, there is not enough medicine," Haitian President Rene Preval said on Thursday, stressing his country's need for immediate international aid.

Haitians slept outside in streets and parks for a second night, fearful of more aftershocks following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that tore through their capital, Port-au-Prince.

Streets were still lined with bodies of the dead and injured after the earthquake ripped apart the city and brought many of its most prominent buildings -including the presidential palace and UN headquarters- crashing down, The hillside shanties where many live offered little resistance as the quake ravaged Porte-au-Prince.

The Haitian Red Cross said it believed 45,000 to 50,000 people had died and 3 million more were hurt or left homeless. Many are believed to be still trapped alive in the rubble. In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive the number of dead could eventually reach "well over 100,000".

Date created : 2010-01-14


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