Patience runs out in Haiti earthquake zone as fighting erupts over food and money

LES CAYES, Haiti – Desperate residents who lost their homes and livelihoods nearly a week ago in the Haiti earthquake fight over the lit...


LES CAYES, Haiti – Desperate residents who lost their homes and livelihoods nearly a week ago in the Haiti earthquake fight over the little help they received, angered by the slow relief flow and lack of government assistance.

Aid was gradually pouring in to Les Cayes, one of the towns on Haiti’s southern peninsula most affected by the earthquake on Friday, but limited supplies only increased tensions among residents. in addition desperate.

Fighting erupted in Les Cayes after a former president, Michel Martelly, visited a hospital on Friday with relief supplies. Supporters rushed to collect cash donations from Mr Martelly’s bodyguards as he drove away. At least one person in the crowd picked up a large stone and attempted to attack others, while the crowd chanted “kill him, kill him”.

Earlier on Friday, gunshots rang out as an angry mob surrounded a broken down truck outside Les Cayes, believing it was carrying aid. And local radio reported that convoys of trucks bound for Les Cayes had been looted.

Earlier in the week, two surgeons were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, the capital 80 miles to the west, where they were providing much-needed medical care to quake victims who had been airlifted there.

The kidnappings effectively shattered a precarious truce that Haiti’s organized gangs announced shortly after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck on Saturday. The kidnappings of doctors, including one of Haiti’s few orthopedic surgeons, prompted a hospital to close Thursday for two days in protest, according to the Associated Press.

In the absence of central government support in Port-au-Prince, which has been in a state of partial paralysis since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, some prominent Haitian politicians have traveled to the affected area before the planned presidential elections. Later this year.

Mr. Martelly was the latest to arrive from abroad in a plane stocked with aid supplies, promising to help the victims as best he could. “We are here to give our support, to bring hope,” he told reporters on his arrival.

At the Cayes police headquarters on Thursday, local authorities were distributing donations from half a dozen countries, a panoply of emergency supplies ranging from Tibetan glacial water received from China to Japanese inflatable mattresses.

Despite the slow pace of international donations, much of the aid effort seen in the center of Les Cayes has remained a private initiative. The city’s better-off residents and Haitian diaspora groups have set up soup kitchens and brought clean water to the displaced. But when the food arrived in the camps, it sometimes sparked frantic scuffles among the hungry recipients.

“When you have 75 meals for hundreds of people, it creates a sensitive situation,” said Reverend Roosvelt Milfort, an evangelical pastor who helped organize a camp for displaced people on the Les Cayes football field. “People get angry. “

A man with a megaphone on Thursday urged camp residents to show tolerance and allow community leaders to organize donations to ensure even distribution. “If we didn’t die from the earthquake, we won’t starve,” the voice of the megaphone sang.

Haiti’s civil protection officials said at least 2,189 people were killed in the quake, hundreds are still missing, and more than 12,000 have been injured. But it is feared that the death toll in the end will be much higher.

Despite the relatively short distance from the capital – a four-hour drive under normal circumstances – aid deliveries to affected areas continued to be severely constrained by logistics.

Gang violence has undermined the capital’s crucial artery to the south, derailing some supplies. Angry residents stopped and requisitioned relief trucks on their way to the affected area, demanding supplies for themselves. And some sections of the road were damaged by landslides caused by the earthquake.

Emilliene Brice, 61, took refuge in a makeshift tent made of tarpaulins and sticks on the Cayes football field on Thursday with 13 children, grandchildren and other relatives. His house had collapsed and they had to flee.

“I don’t know what to do, I rely on others,” said Ms. Brice, who is blind. “I don’t know what to expect. I can not do anything. I only have my children and God.

Some U.S. officials have suggested that a sharply increased death toll could emerge from the quake again in the days and weeks to come. They pointed to a scientific modeling tool from the US Geological Survey, known as the Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response, or PAGER, which combines data about an earthquake with demographic and other information from an affected region to assess the scale of the disaster, including estimated deaths.

Based on PAGER modeling, deaths could be at least 10 times higher than the number known so far, according to an article on the tool published Thursday in Scientific American.

Anatoly Kurmanaev reported from Cayes and Maria Abi-Habib from Port-au-Prince.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Patience runs out in Haiti earthquake zone as fighting erupts over food and money
Patience runs out in Haiti earthquake zone as fighting erupts over food and money
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