Haiti: 'This is anarchy at the moment'

Jan. 15, 2010 at 10:06 PM
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The injured lined up at first aid stations with no supplies Friday as medical equipment and food began to trickle in to quake-stricken Haiti.

In Port-au-Prince, Haitians could make money by collecting dead bodies, The New York Times reported. Officials said about 9,000 had been buried in mass graves.

"They pay me $100 a day," Valencia Joseph, 32, told the Times at 2 a.m. Friday. "We must have picked up 2,000 bodies."

Adolphe Reynald, an aide to the city's mayor, supervised a first aid station that had many patients.

"For the moment, this is anarchy," he said. "There's nothing we can do. We're out here to show that we care, that we're suffering along with them."

Tent cities have sprung up throughout the city where people whose homes were flattened by the 7-magnitude earthquake Tuesday have sought refuge. The United Nations estimates about 10 percent of the housing in Port-au-Prince was destroyed, leaving about 300,000 people homeless, Voice of America reported.

Gunfire could be heard and a police official told CNN gangs were looting, attacking police patrols and robbing people in vehicles. The earthquake destroyed a jail, turning its inmate population loose.

A police official who declined to be named said law enforcement agencies are searching for survivors and victims rather than maintaining order. The lack of food, clean water and other necessities may lead to "small-scale riots" among survivors, the official said.

Red Cross officials said the death toll could reach 50,000, the U.S. Defense Department said in a release. While high, that would be far lower than some top Haitian officials had initially feared.

Corpses were strewn along the streets of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere, creating a concern, World Health Organization spokesman Paul Garwood told VOA.

"The presence of dead bodies in a community does not pose a public health risk," Garwood said. "At the same time, there is an obvious psycho-social mental health aspect to this. People do not want to see this. And, if you are a family member of someone who has passed away, anyone seeing this kind of tragedy has to be responded to. We work with that kind of urgency."

U.S. President Barack Obama pledged short- and long-term assistance to Haiti during a telephone conversation Friday with Haitian President Rene Preval. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday she will go to Haiti Saturday.

John Holms, the United Nations' humanitarian chief, said the non-government organization would begin a flash appeal to raise about $560 million to help the earthquake victims.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday he will travel to Haiti as a show of solidarity. Top U.N. official in Haiti, Hedi Annabi, remains unaccounted for.

European Union development ministers will meet in Brussels Monday to discuss the bloc's response to the earthquake, the BBC reported.

Americans are showing their generosity through texting messages to donate either $5 or $10, the Mobile Giving Foundation said.

Cuba has opened its airspace for medical evacuation flights from earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the White House said Friday.

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