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Old 01-14-2010, 03:52 AM   #1
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Default Haiti

By Marisol Bello, Brian Winter and Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
Bernice Robertson has one word for what Haiti needs now — "everything."
As the scope of the devastation from a magnitude-7.0 earthquake became clearer Wednesday, survivors spoke in terms of all that has disappeared. Most hospitals, houses, schools, roads and grocery stores — virtually every necessity of basic life — were transformed into piles of rubble.

Thousands were dead, President René Préval said, and one of the world's poorest countries had become almost entirely dependent on outside help to survive.

AID: Private donations critical to relief
IN THE U.S.: Haitian Americans await word
COMMUNICATION: Facebook, Twitter 2-way 'lifeline' for Haiti
AMERICANS IN HAITI: Country draws 'special type of person'

Robertson, an aid worker for the International Crisis Group just outside the ravaged Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, says people in her neighborhood were digging through wreckage with their bare hands to try to find survivors.

Piles of bodies lined the streets. The parliament and presidential palace were destroyed. Even the main prison crumbled, unleashing hundreds of inmates.

Phone networks were overwhelmed as relatives in the USA and elsewhere sought news of their loved ones.

Aid organizations were beginning what they said may be one of the biggest, most complex relief efforts in recent history. The absence of clean water, electricity and medical supplies could result in more deaths in the days ahead unless dramatic action is taken, they said.

"We've never seen anything like this before," said Curt Welling, president and CEO of AmeriCares, an aid organization. "Pretty much all the vital infrastructure in Port au Prince seems to have been destroyed. This could all take years to repair."

PHOTOS: Devastating earthquake hits Haiti
INTERACTIVE: Map of Haiti and the earthquake zone
MAP: Earthquakes with 1,000 or more deaths since 1900

President Obama urged Americans to give to the humanitarian effort "despite the fact that we are experiencing tough times here at home." The military dispatched Coast Guard ships, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and 2,000 Marines to assist relief efforts and provide a flotilla of medical facilities. The troops may also help evacuate some of the 45,000 Americans in Haiti.

"Haiti will need all the help it can get — urgent and immediate!!!" Robertson said via e-mail, one of few methods of communication that was functioning Wednesday in the nation of 8 million people about 600 miles southeast of Miami.

Other aid groups sent firefighters, sleeping bags and gauze. The International Red Cross was sending a plane filled mostly with body bags. Préval said it was "too early" to give a precise death toll.

"It's incredible," Préval told CNN. "A lot of people in the street dead. ... I'm still looking to understand the magnitude of the event and how to manage" it.

The earthquake Tuesday evening hit an impoverished, often dysfunctional country that has dealt with more than its fair share of tragedy. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the recent wave of disasters seemed almost "biblical" in nature.

Since just 2004, Haiti has faced floods, food riots, mudslides, at least five hurricanes and a rebellion that left it briefly without a functioning government, forcing United Nations peacekeepers to take charge. The succession of calamities — made worse by decades of dictatorship and political mismanagement — has led to a country where most people survive on $2 or less a day. Even before the earthquake, Haiti relied on foreign aid for most of its food.

"It's almost as if the country is cursed," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Similar sentiment abounded on social networking sites such as Facebook, where people gathered to offer condolences and aid. "Hey GOD where are you? HELP HAITI," said one poster, Pierluigi Mazzocchi.

Despite the recession, sympathy for the victims prompted an instant outpouring from American donors, aid groups said. "You can never overestimate the generosity of the American people," Welling said.

Even if money were unlimited, the logistical impediments to helping Haiti are severe. Air-traffic control was out for much of Wednesday, roads to the interior were blocked by boulders and medical facilities were running out of power to run equipment.

'Time is of the essence'

Bob Poff, the director of disaster services for The Salvation Army in Haiti, was driving down a mountain toward Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck Tuesday. His truck bounced "to and fro like a toy," he said in a note to Salvation Army headquarters in the United States.

"I looked out the windows to see buildings pancaking down like I have never witnessed before," he wrote.

Traffic stopped as "thousands of people poured out into the streets, crying, carrying bloody bodies, looking for anyone who could help them," Poff wrote.

Overnight at a Salvation Army compound he repeatedly heard "the moans and cries of the neighbors."

As the sun rose Wednesday, worries turned to escaped inmates from the prison as looters spread throughout the city.

"These are hardcore prisoners accused of kidnapping and violent crimes," said Bill Canny, director of emergency operations at Catholic Relief Services. "We're very concerned about that."

Laura Blank, a spokeswoman for relief organization World Vision, said that "the hardest part is how can (aid workers) get in touch with each," with phone systems disrupted. "Time is of the essence."

Hundreds of aid workers remained unaccounted for, including dozens of missing U.N. staff. The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Joseph Miot, was killed, the Vatican newspaper said.

Many other seminarians and members of the Catholic Church, upon which many Haitians rely for schools and other basic services, were among the dead, said Bishop of Orlando Thomas Wenski, who began his career as a priest in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood. It will have "a devastating long-term impact" because the church provides health care to many Haitians, the Vatican said.

A seven-person medical team from International Medical Corps, which provides medical assistance in crisis spots, arrived in Port-au-Prince late Wednesday and reported that many of the capital's nurses and doctors may have been killed in the quake, said Rebecca Milner, the organization's vice president for institutional advancement.

"There's not much activity around the hospitals," she said.

'They can't do anything'

The vacant lot next to the Red Cross Office in Port-au-Prince became a makeshift camp and triage area.

Matthew Marek and his staff began to triage the people, gathering all the medical supplies from their destroyed office and their vehicles. Sometime after midnight, the gauze, bandages and alcohol swabs ran out.

"There were lots of broken bones and things we couldn't treat,," Marek said. And people dying and dead.

The destruction: "It's immense. Neighborhood after neighborhood."

Marek and his staff drove some victims to hospitals and clinics but found such facilities to be overwhelmed. "They can't do anything," he said.

Lori Knop, an American who lives in Haiti but was in the United States when the quake hit, said she stayed up all night waiting to hear from colleagues at the aid group she co-founded there.

"I'm sick to my stomach," she said. "I have no idea whether my office is standing or if my staff is alive or dead."

Knop says that Haiti's chronic lack of emergency services made the country especially vulnerable. She recalled a recent incident in which a neighbor's house caught fire. More than two hours later, a fire truck finally showed up. "They asked us if we had any water," she said.

"They're unbelievably ill-equipped," Knop says. She says previous governments have wasted millions of dollars in foreign aid that was aimed at preparing the country for such a calamity. "This was a disaster waiting to happen."

Amy Wilentz, a journalism professor and author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier, said the government has allowed millions of Haitians to build precarious homes on mountains and ravines recently, which also would result in a higher death toll.

"The pictures you're looking at show a terrible wreck, but before the earthquake things were already pretty much a disaster," she said.

The first U.S. ship on the scene, the Coast Guard cutter Forward, was confronted with a "catastrophic" scene, said Cmdr. Diane Durham. "Churches, mansions or corrugated shanties, it doesn't matter. Everybody in this city seems to have been hit."

In the harbor, peers and shipping containers have collapsed into water slickened by an oil spill. Half of the 80 members stationed at the Haitian Coast Guard base are dead, Durham said.

The cutter's helicopter ferried four critically injured people from the American embassy in Port-au-Prince to a medical facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A small Haitian Coast Guard delegation that boarded the cutter to provide information and assistance appear to be in shock, she said.

"We offered them lunch and most of them were embarrassed to eat when their comrades couldn't," Durham said.

Other relief efforts were coming from as far away as South Dakota. The organizers of Haiti Foundation Against Poverty, a group based in Grand Rapids that runs a school in Haiti, began calling doctors who they thought could travel there to help.

"And we want to put up a medical relief building," said Brooke Thurlow. "That's what they really need right now. "

Hurdles to recovery

Recovery will be hampered by Haiti's poor roads, which makes reaching people in remote areas extremely difficult, said Anna Versluis, a geography professor at Gustavus Adolphus College who studies Haiti.

"Haiti's poverty is a factor. If the goal is to restore what was there before, we're not doing very well because most people didn't have much to begin with," she said.

Welling, the AmeriCares CEO, said Haitians "are a very resilient people" and would get by with sufficient international help.

"You may eventually look back at this and say, 'Haiti is better than it was,' " he said. "But I think in the next few days, we're going to hear an awful lot of horror stories."

Winter reported from McLean, Va., Bello from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Contributing: Aamer Madhani, Oren Dorell, Fredreka Schouten, Cathy Grossman, Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press, and the Associated Press.
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Old 01-14-2010, 09:57 AM   #2
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Did you miss the other two threads, that you have posted in?
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:17 AM   #3
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Great thread! You are a premier thinker in this foul age of man!
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:25 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Flex Gunmetal View Post
Great thread! You are a premier thinker in this foul age of man!
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