‘MILLIONS IN URGENT NEED’ after Haiti’s biggest earthquake in 200 years

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Youth on the street in Port-au-Prince – thousands are now homeless in the capital
Youth on the street in Port-au-Prince – thousands are now homeless in the capital

SURVIVORS of Haiti’s biggest earthquake for 200 years yesterday appealed to the world for urgent food, water and medicines as the death toll continued to mount.

The impoverished Caribbean state was still recovering from major storms in 2008 when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday afternoon, followed by powerful aftershocks.

Corpses were laid out on the streets in the capital yesterday, with estimates of over 100,000 dead.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has warned that the death toll could continue to rise.

‘There must be massive humanitarian aid arriving this evening,’ urged Olivier Bernard, the president of Medecins du Monde, appealing for surgical facilities to save lives.

Distressed survivors appealed for lifting gear to clear away tons of concrete rubble, as they tried to dig for survivors with their bare hands.

Makeshift camps have been set up, with aid workers on the island appealing to ‘international organisations and governments’ to deliver water, food, sanitation materials, food and medication without delay.

They said there were ‘thousands and thousands’ of people in need and their need was ‘very, very urgent’.

Most of the people in the makeshift camps are families whose homes have been destroyed by the earthquake.

People have been sleeping amongst the dead bodies on the streets.

Haiti has a population of 9-10 million and it is estimated that at least a third have been affected by the earthquake.

More than two million people live in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where many government buildings are wrecked, including the presidential palace.

The earthquake cut off phone lines and power supplies.

A team of Chinese specialists – veterans of the Sichuan earthquake two years ago in which 90,000 died – was one of the first to rush to Haiti to give assistance.

The United States has dispatched a naval flotilla, headed by an aircraft carrier, and a contingent of 5,700 soldiers and marines.

It is feared there are many more bodies trapped in the hills in the shanty towns where masses of poor people live.

A United Nations spokesman admitted ‘we are working against the clock’ to find survivors.

But distressed Haitians yesterday told reporters ‘there is no water, no food, nothing’.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared the Haitian earthquake to the Asian tsunami five years ago, in which over 220,000 people died.

‘This will be a very high loss of life as well,’ she said.

Her husband, ex-US President Bill Clinton, is a United Nations special envoy to Haiti.

He described the situation as one of the ‘great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas’.

There is a UN force of 9,000 soldiers and policemen in Haiti.

UN officials said yesterday at least 16 of their troops were dead, with 56 injured and 150 missing, while surviving troops were ordered to secure the port and airport.