Search operations winding down as Haiti gets more aid

Miami HeraldJanuary 22, 2010 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Search and rescue operations began winding down in Haiti's earthquake battered capital, with no more than 10 of the original 43 international disaster teams still looking for survivors, Tim Callaghan of the U.S. Agency for International Development said Friday.

With the principal seaport partially reopened -- and new airfields operating in the southern coastal town of Jacmel and the neighboring Dominican Republic -- the U.S. military has been trucking cargo to distribution points in the capital and airdropping supplies into remote regions.

``We want to get relief supplies off the field and out of the port and into the hands of the Haitian people,'' said U.S. Army Col. Charles C. Heatherly Jr.

As the arrival and distribution of aid ramped up, people formed long lines at banks, which were opened for the first time since the earthquake hit. Food and other commodities are slowly becoming available in the capital.

In Petionville, armed Haitian police kept order among Haitians waiting in line at a bank since the previous night.

``I have children, they have to eat,'' said Florence St. Vil, 35, a mother of three who stood at the back of the line at 9 a.m., even though she had arrived at 3 a.m.

St. Vil said she had not received any relief supplies since the earthquake on Jan. 12. Rather than wait for distributions, St. Vil said she preferred to try and buy her own food.

Nearby, a street vendor carried a bucket and sold drinks for 50 cents apiece.

Pharnord St. Louis, 42, who walked around with a bucket in his hand, and shouted ``Tampico,'' a drink he was selling for .50 cent, said the crowd began forming from the previous evening.

``Since last night, they've been here suffering,'' said the vendor, Pharnord St. Louis, 42, referring to the crowd which barely moved even after half hour.

Though U.S. troops and humanitarian agencies are delivering humanitarian aid to four distribution hubs and 105 satellite feeding sites throughout the city, many living in makeshift camps do not know where and when to receive the aid.

The United Nations reports that between 500,000 and 700,000 in Port-au-Prince were made homeless by the earthquake, with many living in an estimated 500 makeshift camps in parks, vacant lots and other open areas in the capital.

U.N and humanitarian agencies reported visiting 350 of the camps as of late Thursday, and reported that only six of those had access to drinking water.

Humanitarian agencies have distributed 20,000 tents big enough to hold five people; another 20,000 tents and 50,000 shelter kits are in the pipeline, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported.

The Haitian government announced plans to relocate survivors to six safer, cleaner tent cities outside of Port-au-Prince to ease overcrowding and prevent the spread of disease at the camps, which have no sanitation systems.

The encampments will house about 20,000 people each, U.N. officials reported.

Haitian government officials estimate the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12 killed as many as 200,000 and made another 1.5 million homeless.

Read the full story at MiamiHerald.com

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