Chinese rescue, medical teams toil as relief supplies land

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Agencies via China Daily, January 18, 2010
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On the streets of its wrecked capital of Haiti, quake survivors were still waiting yesterday for the basics: Food, water and medicine.

Four days after a massive quake possibly killed up to 200,000 people, hundreds of thousands of hungry Haitians were desperately waiting for help, but logistical logjams kept major relief from reaching most victims, many of them sheltering in makeshift camps on streets strewn with debris and decomposing bodies.

Many Haitians streamed out of the city on foot with suitcases on their heads or jammed in cars to find food and shelter in the countryside, and flee aftershocks and violence.

Many others crowded the airport hoping to get on planes that left packed with Haitians.

US President Barack Obama promised help as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti, where the shell-shocked government gave the US control over the congested main airport to guide aid flights from around the world.

Out on the streets of Port-au-Prince, where scarce police patrols fired occasional shots and tear gas to try to disperse looters, the distribution of aid appeared random, chaotic and minimal. Downtown, young men could be seen carrying pistols.

There were jostling scrums for food and water as US military helicopters swooped down to throw out boxes of water bottles and rations. A reporter also saw foreign aid workers tossing packets of food to desperate Haitians.

"The distribution is totally disorganized. They are not identifying the people who need the water. The sick and the old have no chance," said Estime Pierre Deny, standing at the back of a crowd looking for water with his empty plastic container.

The weakened Haitian government is in no position to handle the crisis alone. The quake destroyed the presidential palace and knocked out communications and power. President Rene Preval is living and working from the judicial police headquarters.

Dozens of countries have sent planes with rescue teams, doctors, tents, food, medicine and other supplies, but faced a bottleneck at Port-au-Prince's small airport.

"We have treated more than 200 patients with severe trauma by now," said Hou Shike, chief doctor of the Chinese medical team, which set up the first medical assistance station in Haiti. Hou told CCTV yesterday that a large number of medical personnel and material are in acute demand.

"Due to the poor conditions, and shortage of food, water and medicines, infections are worsening among patients."

The first batch of relief supplies from China arrived at the capital's airport yesterday.

According to China's relief officials in Port-au-Prince, the supplies, which weigh 90 tons, include drugs, tents, emergency lights, water purification supplies, food, drinking water and clothing.

More personnel and material are ready to back up the Chinese rescue and medical teams in Haiti, the China Earthquake Administration (CEA) said yesterday.

Miao Chonggang, deputy director of the CEA's department for disaster relief and emergency aid, said the organization is in close contact with the rescue team on the frontlines and can rush more support if required.

After more than 60 hours of search and rescue work, the Chinese search and rescue team completed its mission in the destroyed UN headquarters in Haiti, according to the CEA.

The team, which arrived in Port-au-Prince at 2 am local time on Jan 14, started working with peacekeeping forces from Brazil and Nepal and rescue teams from the US and France.

They had retrieved the bodies of some United Nations officials, including UN chief in Haiti Hedi Annabi and Luiz Da Costa, deputy special representative of the UN general secretary in Haiti, in addition to the eight Chinese police officers.

The team also set up a medical station to offer treatment for patients pulled out of debris and medical support to medical and security personnel.

The team will continue search and rescue work in other parts of Haiti in coordination with the UN, the CEA said.

The UN mission responsible for security in Haiti lost at least 40 of its members when its headquarters collapsed.

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