Lifesaving supplies and rescue equipment are slow in making their way to the victims of Tuesday's earthquake as despair threatens to turn to disorder in the streets of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haitians are awakening to another day of devastation on Friday after spending a third night in the streets in the wake of a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that tore through the capital on Tuesday, killing tens of thousands and leaving countless others homeless.
The streets of Port-au-Prince have been lined with the bodies of the dead and injured ever since the massive earthquake ripped through the city, bringing some of the capital’s most prominent buildings - including the presidential palace and UN headquarters - crashing down. The hillside shanties that many families call home offered little resistance to the ravages of the quake.
World leaders and international aid organisations quickly rallied to provide Haiti with much-needed rescue teams, food, water and medical supplies. But the impoverished country’s damaged infrastructure has complicated efforts to transport this aid to where it is needed most.
FRANCE 24 correspondent Melissa Bell, reporting from Port-au-Prince on Friday morning (0700 GMT+1), says the relief that is pouring into the country has so far done little to alleviate the Haitians’ suffering. “It is very hard to see any tangible results,” she says.
In the meantime, concerns are mounting that desperation is turning to anger in the streets.
“There are fears that this could degenerate into something far uglier than the aftermath of an earthquake,” Bell says, adding that there have been reports of looting at what few shops remain standing in the capital.
Security concerns are already complicating relief efforts. The UN's World Food Programme said on Friday that its stockpiles had been pillaged in the Haitian capital. "Our warehouses in Port-au-Prince have been looted," said spokeswoman Emilia Casell. " We will have to restock."
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"Our biggest problem is insecurity,” said Delfin Antonio Rodriguez, head of civil defence and a rescue commander for neighbouring Dominican Republic, in an interview with Agence France Presse. “Yesterday they tried to hijack some of our trucks. Today we were barely able to work in some places because of that.”
Reports are also filtering in that some Port-au-Prince residents have built roadblocks with the bodies that are strewn through the streets to protest the lack of aid.
Some Haitians have focused their anger at their government's slow reaction to the disaster.
"We have no authorities," one survivor told AFP.
The lack of a coherent government response is not surprising, given that the parliament building and several ministries were levelled in the quake along with the presidential palace.
“The Haitian government has been absolutely shattered by this earthquake,” says FRANCE 24’s Ioan Grillo in Port-au-Prince.
The Haitian Red Cross has estimated that between 45,000 and 50,000 people may have been killed in Tuesday’s earthquake, with many more at risk of succumbing to disease as the dead lie unburied.
A US aircraft carrier is expected to arrive off the coast of the Caribbean island on Friday to supply water purification equipment and offer relief helicopters a landing pad for delivering supplies.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Friday said a proposed international conference on Haiti's reconstruction could take place in March. "To give hope to the Haitians, we have to show them that we will not abandon them," Kouchner told France's RTL radio. "We are already thinking about rebuilding their houses."
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