Hunger sparks looting
Rescuers are attacked as starving survivors go on the rampage
Published 16/01/2010 | 05:00
Anger turned to violence on the streets of Haiti yesterday as earthquake survivors lost patience with the painfully slow process of getting international aid to those desperate for food, water and medical treatment.
Although doctors, rescue teams and supplies had been arriving in the capital, Port-au-Prince, a series of bottlenecks meant aid was not getting to those who needed it most.
The sound of gunfire echoed around the city as looters fought over scarce food supplies, hijacked vehicles and raided a UN warehouse where 15,000 tonnes of food had been stockpiled.
Even the most stoic Haitians began to express frustration at lack of help on the fourth day of their ordeal, and in one part of the capital corpses were piled up to build roadblocks in protest at the delays.
David Wimhurst, spokesman for the Brazilian-run UN peacekeeping mission, said: "They want us to provide them with help, which is, of course, what we want to do. But they're slowly getting more angry and impatient." Brazil's defence minister, Nelson Jobim, who spent two days in Port-au-Prince, said: "As long as the people are hungry and thirsty, as long as we haven't fixed the problem of shelter, we run the risk of riots."
The problem has been worsened by the complete destruction of Port-au-Prince's main prison, where almost all of the 4,000 inmates survived the earthquake and are now roaming the streets. Rescuers have been told to stop work when it gets dark because of fears they will be attacked.
"Our biggest problem is security," said Delfin Antonio Rodriguez, rescue commander for the Dominican Republic. "Yesterday they tried to hijack some of our trucks. Today we were barely able to work in some places because of that. There's looting and people with guns out there, because this country is very poor and people are desperate."
'Time' magazine photographer Shaul Schwarz said he saw at least two roadblocks formed with bodies of earthquake victims and rocks.
"They are starting to block the roads with bodies," he said. "It's getting ugly out there. People are fed up with getting no help."
Pierre Jackson, desperate for medical help for his mother and sister who have crushed legs, said: "We've been out here waiting for three days and three nights but nothing has been done for us.
"What should we do?"
The main pinch point is at the small airport in Port-au-Prince, which lost its control tower in the earthquake. It became so clogged with aid aircraft that many had to wait hours to be unloaded. The airport had to be closed to new arrivals for eight hours, and a shortage of jet fuel also meant some could not take off again.
When supplies were unloaded, blocked roads meant made it very difficult to get them to where they were needed. "People have been almost fighting over water," said aid worker Fevil Dubien.
The situation was expected to improve last night with the arrival of a US aircraft carrier with 19 helicopters on board, which will be used to transport supplies by air. The US is also sending more than 10,000 soldiers and marines to keep the peace. (© Daily Telegraph, London)