Haiti: survivors sleep among the dead
The real dimension of the devastating earthquake that practically destroyed the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, is only emerging now, with injured people sleeping in the street alongside those have who have perished, people shouting for help under the rubble, and emergency teams that can hardly cope with the size of their task.
Speculation about the number of people who died ranges from 50,000, according to President René Préval to 100,000 according to Primer Minister Jean Max Bellerive. There are media organisations that have even go as far as suggesting half a million fatalities. At the moment, however, it is impossible to know how many people have died already, a toll that it is bound to increase because of the number of people who will die under the rubble.
The Haitian government has not even been able to meet to discuss the crisis, because many ministries and the presidential palace have been destroyed. Dominican media says that President Préval may be travelling to Santo Domingo, the capital of the neighbouring country, the Dominican Republic, for security reasons, because the Presidential palace is now uninhabitable.
International aid has started to arrive to Port-au-Prince.
The Red Cross estimates that at least 3 million people are in need of emergency aid, including medicine and food. Only military aircraft seems to be able to cope with the terrain.
The first helicopters arrived from the Dominican Republic hours after the earthquake happened and a team of 40 rescue experts left Madrid on route to Port-au-Prince very soon after the scale of the tragedy became clear. At least 60 British experts have arrived in the Haitian capital and a group of US emergency workers is also now in Haiti.
The US is preparing a massive response with one of their biggest emergency and rescue operations of recent years. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to cancel a trip to Asia to coordinate the emergency efforts in Haiti.
The priority is to evaluate the most urgent needs of the population and try to rescue those who are still buried under the rubble.
Even for the UN it is difficult to join the emergency effort. At least 16 UN workers are confirmed dead and 100 are still unaccounted for as a result of the collapse of its headquarters in the Haitian capital.
Poverty helped the tragedy
Thousands of peasants live in dire conditions in the slums of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, because they were forced to abandon their smallholdings in the countryside as a result of drought and the devastating effects of the hurricanes that have affected the region during the past four years.
Tuesday’s earthquake is likely to have caused many fatalities among the poor of Port-au-Prince, who left the countryside in search of a better life in the big city, and ended up dying in the shantytowns of the Haitian capital.
Reconstruction support promised
During the past five years, the economic outlook of Haiti had started to improve, with a slight recovery in its limited industrial output, based on the manufacturing of machinery parts.
Although gangs of political thugs still wander around the main streets of Port-au-Prince, the UN international peace-keeping forces was managing to control the situation.
In any case, the World Bank has announced that it will provide a package of US$100 million to finance the recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Listin Diario (Dominican Republic, Spanish)
El Nacional (Dominican Republic, Spanish)
Hoy (Dominican Republic, Spanish)
El Pais (Spanish)
The Washington Post
The World Bank