Aid pledged as Haitians cry for international help / PHOTO

The initial effort was focused on saving as many lives as possible after Haiti said the death toll could reach "well over 100,000".

Aid pledged as Haitians cry for international help / PHOTO


Rescuers, sniffer dogs, equipment and supplies headed to Haiti by air and sea Thursday in a global response to a horror earthquake feared to have killed more than 100,000 people.

US President Barack Obama, spearheading international efforts, ordered a sweeping military and civilian operation, as governments and aid groups unlocked funds and appeals were launched on an array of Internet sites.

Much of the capital of the destitute Caribbean nation was reduced to rubble by Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude quake but the airport was operational, allowing international relief by air as well as sea.



Obama spoke by phone to the U.N. secretary-general and the leaders of Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Chile about efforts to assist Haiti but was not able to contact Haitian President Rene Preval, the White House said.

Obama pledged swift, coordinated support to help save lives. The Pentagon was sending an aircraft carrier and three amphibious ships, including one that can carry up to 2,000 Marines.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut short a trip to the Pacific and Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled plans to visit Australia to deal with the earthquake response.



The United States, China and European states were sending reconnaissance and rescue teams, some with search dogs and heavy equipment, while other governments and aid groups offered tents, water purification units, food and telecoms teams.

U.S. airlines suspended commercial flights to Haiti. The quake knocked out the Port-au-Prince airport control tower. The U.S. Air Force sent a team to restore air traffic control to allow flights to evacuate the injured and bring in supplies.



Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.N. special envoy to Haiti, said more rescue teams and heavy equipment were needed.

"We need more helicopters," Clinton told CNN. "The most important thing is to get people into the (collapsed) buildings and find as many alive as possible."

"International help"

Traumatized Haitians slept out in parks and streets on Thursday, fearing aftershocks to the catastrophic earthquake that flattened homes and government buildings and buried countless people.



Tens of thousands of people were feared dead and many were believed to be still trapped alive in the rubble of the major quake.

There were no signs of organized operations to rescue those trapped in debris or remove bodies and doctors in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, were ill-equipped to treat the injured.

Survivors feared returning to their precarious homes and slept in open areas where groups of women sang traditional religious songs in the dark and prayed for the dead.



Foreigners slept around the hotel's pool and scores of injured Haitians lay outside the damaged hotel.

Tens of thousands wandered dazed and sobbing in the chaotic, broken streets of Port-au-Prince the day after the earthquake, hoping desperately for assistance.

Bodies were visible all around the hilly city: under rubble, lying beside roads, being loaded into trucks. Scattered bodies were laid out on sidewalks, wrapped neatly in sheets and blankets. Voices cried out from the rubble.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was gearing up to help a "maximum of three million people", based on numbers on the ground, and was drawing on emergency stocks in Haiti.



The Red Cross launched a 10-million-dollar appeal for donations and the World Food Programme said it could quickly provide 15,000 tonnes of food.

The World Health Organization deployed specialists to help handle mass casualties and corpses, warning of the danger of communicable diseases such as diarrhea.

Latin American nations, many with experience of earthquakes and with UN peacekeepers in Haiti, scrambled to help.

Cuba, which felt the quake, sent 30 doctors to add to its medical staff already in Haiti. Brazil said it was sending 10 million dollars in immediate aid, while Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Guatamala and Chile also promised help.



Canada readied two warships, helicopters and planes with supplies, as well as a large relief and rescue force.

From the Asia-Pacific, Australia pledged nine million dollars. Taiwan, whose ambassador to Haiti was hurt in the quake, South Korea and New Zealand also offered aid.

As aftershocks continued to shake the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince, residents tried to rescue people trapped under rubble, clawing at chunks of concrete with bare hands. Men with sledgehammers battered at slabs of debris in collapsed buildings searching for survivors.

One young man yelled at reporters in English: "Too many people are dying. We need international help ... no emergency, no food, no phone, no water, no nothing."

"Unimaginable"

After Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the death toll could reach "well over 100,000", the initial effort was focused on saving as many lives as possible.



Asked by a CNN reporter how many people had died, Haitian President Rene Preval replied, "I don't know ... up to now, I heard 50,000 ... 30,000." He did not say where the estimates came from.

The United Nations, whose five-story headquarters in Port-au-Prince was destroyed, said at least 16 members of its 9,000-strong peacekeeping mission, including 11 Brazilian soldiers, had been killed. Preval said mission chief Hedi Annabi was dead but the world body could not confirm that.

Haiti's white presidential palace lay in ruins, its domes fallen on top of flattened walls. Preval and his wife were not inside when the quake hit.

Preval called the damage "unimaginable" and described stepping over dead bodies and hearing the cries of those trapped in the collapsed Parliament building, where the Senate president was among those pinned down by debris.

Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said its three hospitals in Haiti were too badly damaged to use and it was treating the injured at temporary shelters.

"What we are seeing is severe traumas, head wounds, crushed limbs, severe problems that cannot be dealt with with the level of medical care we currently have available," said Paul McPhun, operations manager for the group's Canadian section.


Agencies



Last Mod: 14 Ocak 2010, 11:34
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