Fear of looting as desperation among Haiti earthquake survivors takes hold

AID workers in Haiti today called for more security amid fears of attacks by increasingly desperate earthquake survivors.

• Bolivian UN soldiers stand guard at an aid center in Port-au-Prince as a group of Haitians carry a victim (Getty)

UN peacekeepers patrolling the capital Port-au-Prince said there was a growing feeling among people that aid was not being distributed quickly enough.

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And the Brazilian military warned aid convoys to guard against looting.

"Unfortunately, they're slowly getting more angry and impatient," said a spokesman for the Brazilian-commanded UN peacekeeping mission.

"I fear, we're all aware that the situation is getting more tense as the poorest people who need so much are waiting for deliveries. I think tempers might be frayed."

The UN World Food Programme said its warehouses in the capital had been looted and it did not know how much of its pre-quake stockpile of 15,000 tons of food aid remained.

A spokeswoman added that regular food stores in the city also had been emptied by looters. She said the WFP was preparing shipments of enough ready-to-eat meals to feed two million Haitians for a month.

The international Red Cross estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in the quake on Tuesday.

Hundreds of bodies were stacked outside the city morgue, and limbs of the dead protruded from the rubble of crushed schools and homes. A few workers were able to free people who had been trapped for days, but others attended to the grim task of using bulldozers to transport loads of bodies.

For the long-suffering people of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, shock was giving way to despair.

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"We need food. The people are suffering. My neighbours and friends are suffering," said Sylvain Angerlotte, 22. "We don't have money. We don't have nothing to eat. We need pure water."

From Europe, Asia and the Americas, more than 20 governments, the UN and private aid groups were sending planeloads of high-energy biscuits and other food, tons of water, tents, blankets, water-purification gear, heavy equipment for removing debris, helicopters and other transport. Hundreds of search-and-rescue, medical and other specialists also headed to Haiti.

Governments and government agencies have pledged about 400 million dollars of aid.

But into the third day following the quake, the global helping hand was slowed by a damaged sea port and an airport that turned away civilian aid planes for eight hours yesterday because of a lack of space and fuel.

Aid workers have been blocked by debris on inadequate roads and by survivors gathered in the open out of fear of aftershocks and re-entering unstable buildings.

Across the sprawling, hilly city, people milled about in open areas, hoping for help, sometimes setting up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food scavenged from the rubble.

Small groups could be seen burying dead by roadsides. Other dust-covered bodies were being dragged down streets, toward hospitals where relatives hoped to leave them. Countless dead remained unburied, some in piles.

Aid worker Fevil Dubien said some people were almost fighting over the water he distributed from a truck.

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Elsewhere about 50 Haitians yearning for food and water rushed toward two employees wearing "Food For The Poor" T-shirts as they entered the international agency's damaged building.

"We heard a commotion at the door, knocking at it, trying to get in," said project manager Liony Batista. "'What's going on? Are you giving us some food?' We said, 'Uh-oh.' You never know when people are going over the edge."

He and others tried to calm the crowd, which eventually dispersed after being told food had not yet arrived.

"We're not trying to run away from what we do," Mr Batista said, adding that co-ordinating aid has been a challenge. "People looked desperate, people looked hungry, people looked lost."

Engineers from the UN mission have begun clearing some main roads, and law-and-order duties have fallen completely to the mission's 3,000 international troops and police. About 5,500 US soldiers and Marines were expected to be in Haiti by Monday. Their efforts will include providing security.

• Rescuers carry a corpse just dug from the rubble in Port-au-Prince


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