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More troops, aid go to Haiti, but hunger persists

Posted: January 18, 2010 1:53 p.m.
Updated: January 18, 2010 1:56 p.m.
 
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Troops, doctors and aid workers flowed into Haiti on Monday and officials said billions of dollars more will be needed following the quake that killed an estimated 200,000 people and left many still struggling to find a cup of water or a handful of food.

European nations pledged more than a half-billion dollars in emergency and long-term aid, on top of at least $100 million promised earlier by the U.S. The president of the neighboring Dominican Republic said it will cost far more to finally rebuild the country: $10 billion.

Help was still not reaching many victims of Tuesday's quake - choked back by transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys, the collapse of local authority and the sheer scale of the need.

Looting spread to more parts of downtown Port-au-Prince as hundreds of young men and boys clambered up broken walls to break into shops and take whatever they can find. Especially prized was toothpaste, which people smear under their noses to fend off the stench of decaying bodies.

At a collapsed and burning shop in the market area, youths used broken bottles, machetes and razors to battle for bottles of rum and police fired shots to break up the crowd.

"I am drinking as much as I can. It gives courage," said Jean-Pierre Junior, wielding a broken wooden plank with nails to protect his bottle of rum.

Even so, the U.S. Army's on-the-ground commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, said the city is seeing less violence than before the earthquake. "Is there gang violence? Yes. Was there gang violence before the earthquake? Absolutely."

U.S. officials say some 2,200 Marines were arriving to join 1,700 U.S. troops now on the ground and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Monday he wants 1,500 more U.N. police and 2,000 more troops to join the existing 7,000 military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police in Haiti.

While aid workers tried to make their way into Haiti, many people tried to leave. Hundreds of U.S. citizens, or people claiming to be, waved IDs as they formed a long line outside the U.S. Embassy in hopes of arranging a flight out of the country.

Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, hosting an international meeting to plan strategy for Haiti, said it would cost $10 billion over five years to reconstruct the country and confront the immediate emergency.

Roughly 200,000 people may have been killed in the magnitude-7.0 quake, the European Union said, quoting Haitian officials who also said about 70,000 bodies have been recovered so far.

EU officials estimated that about 250,000 were injured and 1.5 million were homeless.

Even many people whose houses survived are sleeping outside for aftershocks will collapse unstable buildings. And while the U.N. said that more than 73,000 people have received a week's rations, many more still wait.

So many people have lost homes that the World Food Program is planning a tent camp for 100,000 people - an instant city the size of Burbank, California - on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, according to the agency's country director, Myrta Kaulard.

About 50,000 people already sleep each night on the city golf course where the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division has set up an aid camp.

In town, Bodies still lay in the street six days after the quake, but Haitians had made progress in hauling many away for burial or burning. People were seen dragging corpses to intersections in hopes that garbage trucks or aid groups would arrive to take them away.

Six days after the quake, dozens of rescue crews were still working to rescue victims trapped under piles of concrete and debris.

"There are still people living" in collapsed buildings, U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told The Associated Press. "Hope continues."

She said some might survive until Monday - and a few special cases could make it further: Rescuers pulled a 30-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman from a ruined supermarket on Sunday. Officials said they had had survived for so long by eating food where they were trapped.

Stunned by images of the disaster, the European Union Commission said it would contribute €330 million ($474 million) in emergency and long-term aid to Haiti.

EU member states also poured €92 million ($132 million) in emergency aid, including 20 million pounds ($32.7 million) from Britain and €10 million ($14.4 million) from France, which also said it was willing for forgive Haiti's €40 million ($55.7 million) debt.

"The impact of this earthquake is magnified because it has hit a country that was already desperately poor and historically volatile," said British Development Secretary Douglas Alexander.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, agreed with U.N. officials on a system to grant priority to humanitarian flights, responded to criticism that military and rescue flights had sometimes been first in line, according to the U.N.

Some countries and aid groups such as Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders had complained planes filled with doctors and medical supplies had been forced to land in the neighboring Dominican Republic and come in by road, delaying urgent care for injured quake victims by two days.

The problem may be eased by U.S. expansion of the cramped airport's capacity.

The U.S. military spokesman in Haiti, Cmdr. Chris Lounderman, said about 100 flights a day are now landing, up from 60 last week. "The ramp was designed for 16 large aircraft," he said. "At times there were up to 40. That's why there was gridlock."

In Paris, French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet expressed concern about the major U.S. military role in the country, saying it should be clarified: "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti," said Joyandet, who last week complained about U.S. handling of the airport.

But other French officials were conciliatory.

"You have a small airport ... which was devastated by the earthquake and you have hundred of planes which want to land," said French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said. "So it's totally normal that there are delays, but I think that the situation has dramatically improved."

He said it's still more important to repair the damaged seaport - a task U.S. officials are working on. "In terms of aid, it's the port where we can bring most of the aid," he said.

Former President Bill Clinton, who arrived with his daughter, toted crates of bottled water at the airport and shook hands with doctors at the capital's General Hospital, crammed with about 1,500 patients. He promised that his foundation would provide medicine and a generator so that doctors there can work through the night.

Clinton is the U.N. special envoy for Haiti and he has joined former President George W. Bush in leading a campaign for donations to help the country.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby, said in Washington that the United States expects to have 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops in Haiti by midweek and the same number at sea, with the hospital ship USNS Comfort arriving by Wednesday.

At the United Nations, meanwhile, the secretary-general said he needs the extra troops for six months, and the police would likely stay longer. U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said he expects the Security Council to approve the increase by Wednesday.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain LeRoy told The Associated Press that the Dominican Republic has already pledged an 800-strong battalion and the U.N. has other offers. France's Araud said European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to send some more police.

___

Associated Press writers contributing to this story included Jennifer Kay, Mike Melia, Tamara Lush, Jonathan M. Katz, Gregory Bull in Port-au-Prince; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Raf Casert in Brussels; Larry Margasak in Washington; Alexander G. Higgins in Geneva, and Jill Lawless in London.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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