First-hand accounts from our correspondents in Port-au-Prince
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FRANCE 24's special correspondents reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, give eyewitness accounts of the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which struck the poverty-stricken country on January 12.
January 19: Despite an improvement in getting medical aid to stricken Haitians, looting and violence is on the increase as local police struggle to contain the situation.
FRANCE 24's correspondent Melisa Bell filed this report at 7 p.m. Paris time (GMT+1) from the airport in Port-au-Prince.
“I’m speaking to you from the rescuer’s camp. Just behind me hundreds of rescuers have come from all over the world, each camped around their own flag.
“They’ve come here to look for survivors who might still be caught under the rubble, and even now, a week after that terrible earthquake, they’re still pulling people out alive. It’s a reminder that for so many days, so many thousands of people remained trapped, unknown, unheard of and unnamed for many, and many continue to die far from the world’s gaze.
“For the most part what’s being organized here at the airport is help to those who survived above ground, the millions of Haitians still living in camps all over the capital.
“The strategy from the American military is now to move the camps into the city, to leave the airport so that American military men can camp themselves around the capital. They then are said to be able to distribute more carefully; more better all that food and drink that need to get to those people.
“But the most important they say is ensuring security and that is far from done yet: This is still a capital that has lived for a week now in the upmost anarchy and chaos and it’s something you really can still feel in the streets.
“For the American soldiers, there’s a large task ahead and it’s far from being won”.
FRANCE 24's correspondent Melisa Bell filed this report at 2 p.m. Paris time (GMT+1) from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Pince.
“Despite the increase in international troops, the aid is still slow in getting out of the airport”.
“There is some aid getting through, I walked around the city centre just before nightfall and you could see some of that much needed drinks, water and much needed food finally getting to the camps. You have to imagine these camps, these huge camps in which these families have lived for a week now nearly; they have been living in their own filth without anything to drink or eat. So, the fact that it is getting through is a good step, a step in the right direction, but still there is so much more to do. What is going to be tricky in the coming days is to ensure that this aid keeps getting through. The situation remains very tense as aid was so slow getting through to start with, people are very angry, we had scuffles here outside the airport gates yesterday, young men were lining up demanding jobs, saying that if they didn’t get jobs they were going to die".it
"These are very traumatised people, they have lived through a catastrophe. Many have lost family members or friends or simply don’t know, they have been without communication for a week, and only now are they starting to get some of the basic supplies that they need”.
On the US effort in Haiti Melissa said:
“The US has already sent in thousands of troops the UN is sending in 3,000 more. What exactly is there mission and how are they going to implement it?
“That is going to be the real question over the coming days. The US Defence Secretary was very clear overnight, the US is not here to play policeman. But in a situation as tense as this one, it makes their mission very difficult. For the time being they have taken control of this airport and its what’s made it run as efficiently as it has. But the next step - which is getting the humanitarian aid out in the large quantities and as efficiently as everyone would like to see it get out - is going to take nothing short of the US military’s sense of organisation and ability to get things done. The trouble is, once they are out there, what do they do if things get tense, what do they do if crowds start growing and getting unruly. This is what happened here outside the airport yesterday, the UN troops used tear gas, the Americans troops followed and they tried to talk to the people. You could see that they were definitely trying to use words rather than strength. The question over the coming hours will be, given the tension out there and the anarchy that has ruled for the last week and the fact that there has already been a lot of looting and banditry, whether they can keep doing what they are doing with just words. That’s the big question for the next few days”.
FRANCE 24's correspondent Ioan Grillo filed this report at 11am Paris time (GMT+1) from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
“The looting has carried on and is actually getting worse. Last night from our hotel we heard 20 or 30 gunshots.
“Yesterday I was in the centre of town and we saw hundreds of people looting stores. Local police were shooting in the air in chaotic scenes.
“There is still a long way to go to get any kind of security.it
“US troops are very much confined to their bases and haven’t deployed into the towns. The national airport has effectively become a US military base.
“There has been some improvement in medical aid, and aid organisations have been performing regular amputations. But it is still a very very big task”.
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