Haiti relief surge fails to bring security

 Thousands of US Marines joined the Haiti relief effort on Monday but lawlessness pervaded on the streets with looters preying on the helpless and raiding the flattened ruins.

Doctors hacked off limbs to save lives as rescuers picked through the debris to locate unlikely survivors more than six days after the 7.0-magnitude quake struck, reducing the Haitian capital to rubble.

EU nations promised more than 600 million dollars in aid and reconstruction funds, but Dominican President Leonel Fernandez estimated 10 billion over five years would be needed to put Haiti back on the road to recovery.

US military leads surge in Haiti relief effort

Despite the arrival of more than 2,200 US Marines aboard the amphibious ship USS Bataan, the massive international relief effort was still failing to bring security and alleviate the despair of a wretched populace.

A Haitian earthquake injured victim is carried to get medical help in Port-au-Prince.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requested 3,500 more troops and police for the battered UN mission that was trying to bring stability to the dysfunctional Caribbean state even before disaster struck.

In the stinking capital Port-au-Prince, where corpses lay abandoned under the rubble and palace gardens were turned into putrid slums, groups of survivors roamed the streets to scrounge supplies.

Troops in combat gear fired off rounds and hauled some people to the ground to try to stop the worst of the looting but the paltry security presence in this desperately destitute city made that a futile task.

The Red Cross warned that violence by desperate Haitians was growing, though Lieutenant-General Ken Keen, the top US officer on the ground, insisted: "The level of violence we see now is below pre-earthquake levels."

UN agencies said field hospitals and food distribution had multiplied in and around the capital, where the quake wrought huge destruction.

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"Prices for food and transport have skyrocketed since last Tuesday and incidents of violence and looting are on the rise as the desperation grows," the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.

Many residents of Port-au-Prince felt they were in "a catastrophic situation," it added.

Officials have expressed fears the final death toll may top 200,000 if it is ever known at all, while a government minister said Sunday that 70,000 bodies had already been buried.

As the relief effort was stepped up, US paratroopers deployed out of the main Haitian airport in waves of navy Seahawk helicopters to set up bases from which to launch humanitarian operations.

"We have seen a dramatic improvement in the efficiency and coordination of the flow of goods coming in," World Food Programme executive director Josette Sheeran told reporters in Rome.

Looters prey upon quake-ravaged Haitian capital

But she was obviously far from the scenes of utter desperation in the capital where conditions appeared to have barely improved for hundreds of thousands, many still sleeping rough in the streets.

Homeless, injured and traumatized survivors trawled the streets desperate for food, water and medicine. All around was the stench of rotting bodies.

International aid trickled in but supplies remained scarce amid the enormity of a crisis the United Nations estimates affected three million people and left 300,000 homeless.

Former US president Bill Clinton, a special UN envoy to Haiti, defended the pace of the relief effort as he visited Port-au-Prince to meet Haitian leaders and get first-hand accounts from survivors.

Haiti quake relief gains pace: aid agencies

"No, I don't think they were slow coming in," Clinton told AFP as he walked down hospital hallways cluttered with injured survivors. "The infrastructure broke down, and that's what we're building up."

Amid the death and desperation the life-affirming tales of survival that had provided glimmers of hope in preceding days were drying up, although an 18-month-old baby was found alive on Monday.

French doctor Jacques Lorblanches said he had lost count of the number of amputations he had performed in the past 48 hours but would never forget the ghastly conditions under which he carried them out.

"I have never seen anything like this -- infected wounds full of larvae," he told AFP. "I did my first amputation with three forceps, five scissors and a scalpel, without water, and just a flashlight to illuminate the injury."

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Emergency workers expanded their operations to battered communities outside of Port-au-Prince, including Gressier, Petit Goave, and Leogane, which were all leveled by the quake.

As he predicted Haiti would need two billion dollars a year until 2015 to recover, Dominican president Fernandez warned that what was most needed was "a central authority in Haiti able to channel all the aid that is arriving."

Alongside him at the meeting in Santo Domingo to prepare for an international aid conference, Haitian President Rene Preval pledged to strengthen democratic institutions.

"We need in Haiti political, economic stability. We need to reinforce the democratic institutions," he said.

source AFP

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