- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | U.S. troops landed on the lawn of Haiti’s shattered presidential palace to the cheers of quake victims Tuesday, and the United Nations said it would throw more police and soldiers into the sluggish global effort to aid the devastated country.

The U.N. forces are to quell the outbursts of violence that have slowed distribution of supplies, leaving many Haitians still without help a week after the magnitude 7.0 quake killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Looters were rampaging through part of downtown Port-au-Prince even as the Security Council voted to add 2,000 troops to the 7,000 military peacekeepers already in the country as well as 1,500 more police to the 2,100-strong international force.

Haitians jammed the fence of the palace grounds to gawk and cheer as U.S. troops emerged from six Navy helicopters.

“We are happy that they are coming, because we have so many problems,” said Fede Felissaint, a hairdresser.

Given the circumstances, he did not even mind the troops taking up positions at the presidential palace. “If they want, they can stay longer than in 1915,” he said, a reference to the start of a 19-year U.S. military presence in Haiti — something U.S. officials have repeatedly insisted they have no intention of repeating.

A full week after the quake, the capital’s port remains blocked and too much aid must flow through the city’s lone, small airport. Tens of thousands of people sleep in the streets or under plastic sheets in makeshift camps. Relief workers say they fear visiting some parts of the city.

Just four blocks from U.S. troop landing at the palace, hundreds of looters fought over bolts of cloth and other goods with broken bottles and clubs.

“That is how it is. There is nothing we can do,” said Haitian police officer Arina Bence, who was trying to keep civilians out of the looting zone for their own safety.

Police Chief Mario Andersol said he can muster only 2,000 officers in the capital, down from 4,500 before the quake, and they “are not trained to deal with this kind of situation.”

European Commission analysts estimate the quake injured 250,000 and made 1.5 million homeless, and many are exasperated by the delays in getting aid.

“I simply don’t understand what is taking the foreigners so long,” said Raymond Saintfort, a pharmacist who brought two suitcases of aspirin and antiseptics to survivors in the ruins of a nursing home.

Aid workers have distributed at least 250,000 servings of daily food rations, with about half coming from the U.S. military, according to the World Food Program. But that figure is still far short of the need, and the U.N. agency managed to feed only half the 100,000 people it planned to reach on Monday. It said security forces were not available to escort its trucks and some military staff were injured while retrieving food from a severely damaged warehouse.

U.S. military efforts to speed aid through Port-au-Prince’s airport appeared to be paying off after days of complaints by frustrated aid agencies: Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, the airport that handled just 30 fights a day before it was damaged in the quake is now handling 180 a day.

“We’re doing everything in our power to speed aid to Haiti as fast as humanly possible,” he said.

But the international aid group Doctors Without Borders complained that U.S. controllers turned away a planeload of medical equipment three times since Sunday despite assurances it could land.

“We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying,” said Loris de Filippi, emergency coordinator the group’s hospital in Cite Soleil.

The group said five other of its planes have been able to land.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, said it is preparing two other airfields to handle aid flights, one in the Haitian town of Jacmel and another in the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, rescuers continued finding survivors.

A Mexican rescue team created after that nation’s 1985 earthquake rescued an elderly Haitan woman who had survived a week buried in the ruins of the residence of Haiti’s Roman Catholic archbishop, who died.

Other teams pulled two Haitian women from a collapsed university building as one of the victim’s sisters shouted praises to God.

In the city’s Bourdon area, French, Dominican and Panamanian rescuers using high-tech detection equipment said they heard heartbeats beneath the rubble of a bank building. The husband of a missing woman watched from a crowd of onlookers.

“I’m going to be here until I find my wife; I’ll keep it up until I find her, dead or alive,” he said.



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