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Clashes in Haiti over sparse aid

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has termed the earthquake in Haiti as "one of the most serious crises in decades.” However, the relief effort for the place is "too slow".

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 18 -- Western hemisphere's poorest country was rendered even poorer six days back when a devastating earthquake wreaked havoc on it.

After signs of decimation, it is all chaos and fear on the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince.

While tens of thousands of people lost their lives, many more who survived the natural catastrophe, are still waiting for the bare minimum; food, water and medicine.

Transportation is a problem
Aid has started pouring in from all quarters but that is not enough. Much of the relief effort has been hampered by the logistical problems of transporting it from the damaged airport to the affected areas.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the French medical aid agency, lamented that quite a few of its cargo planes had been "blocked" from landing in Port-au-Prince.

In fact, one of its aircraft, equipped with a surgical hospital with the capacity to hold over 100 patients, was not allowed to land and was re-routed to Santo Domingo. The re-routing caused a 24-hour delay in landing.

Ironically, planes of VIPs such as US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, have not been denied permission and have able to land without a problem.

"Priority must be given immediately to aircraft carrying life-saving equipment and medical personnel," opined the agency.

All said, the relief effort thus remains “too slow.” Jean Kenol Auguste, a partially blind ageing man, who has lost everything in the quake said, “People are receiving no help at all.”

Little aid leads to fights
If aid arrived at the decimated capital city, so did scores of police reinforcements, who descended on the area.

“Some Dominicans came yesterday with some water and a few snacks, but then a fight broke out because there wasn't enough and everyone wanted some," added Auguste.

Groups of rioters ransacking public places are a common site. In fact, the police opened firing on a group of looters, killing a man in his 30s.

Likewise, residents in the Delmas area, caught, tied and beat two suspected looters, as they lay stock-still on the streets.

There are also gangs of masked men, who protect their identity and steal whatever comes their way.

Eddy Toussaint, a witness to the violence, said, "Haitians are partly taking things into their own hands. There are no jails, the criminals are running free, there are no authorities controlling this."