U.S. Troops Heading for Haiti to Boost Security, Aid (Update1)

By Justin Blum and Chris Dolmetsch

Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) — More U.S. troops are arriving in Haiti today after the American commander on the ground said that security must be improved to ensure aid reaches survivors of last week’s earthquake.

“We need a safe and secure environment to be successful,” U.S. Southern Command Lieutenant General Ken Keen, who is overseeing relief efforts, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There is increasing incidents of security and we are going to have to deal with it as we go forward.”

Aid workers are battling street violence and shortages of food, medical supplies after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck on Jan. 12, killing more than 100,000 people. Keen said on ABC’s “This Week” an estimate that between 150,000 and 200,000 people may have been killed is “a start point.” The quake affected 3 million people and left 300,000 homeless in Port-au-Prince, according to the United Nations.

Keen said there are 1,000 U.S. troops currently on the ground in Haiti. A further 3,000 other troops are working from ships docked off Haiti’s coast and two additional companies of the 82nd Airborne Division are arriving in addition to Marines aboard the USS Bataan and a Marine landing battalion, the American Forces Press Service said. A total of 7,500 U.S. personnel are scheduled to arrive by today, the U.S. Southern Command said in a statement.

Clinton Visits

Former President Bill Clinton visits Haiti today in a bid to accelerate international relief efforts for survivors of the earthquake that devastated the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.

The inability to get supplies to survivors in Port-au- Prince is “frustrating,” Clinton, the UN special envoy for Haiti, said yesterday. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived yesterday to assess the destruction in the city of about 2 million people, acknowledged that people are losing patience as they wait for assistance.

U.S. troops have taken control of the capital’s airport and are helping provide security for relief efforts.

“Coordination will improve as we are better organized,” Ban told a news conference in the capital. “Deliveries are now being made in a more effective and efficient” manner. As many as 27 international teams, involving more than 1,500 people, are taking part in search-and-rescue operations, he said.

Damage to ports and roads is slowing efforts to bring in supplies, according to U.S. officials. Deliveries should improve as search-and-rescue efforts come to a close, Clinton said on “This Week” yesterday.

Food Supplies

The World Food Program said it supplied 60,000 people with ready-to-eat food rations Jan. 16 and planned to reach a similar number of people yesterday. The WFP said it aims to feed about 2 million people when its emergency program is operating, according to the agency’s Web site.

In Brussels, the European Union offered Haiti 422 million euros ($607 million) for emergency aid, steps to shore up the government and longer-term reconstruction. The EU may also send as many as 150 policemen and called for an international summit to help Haiti recover.

“We need to pull it together, do it at the right time, and make sure it is about supporting Haiti for the medium and the long term,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters after EU development ministers met in Brussels today.

Italian Aircraft Carrier

Italy is sending its aircraft carrier, the Cavour, to Haiti, the Ansa news agency reported today. The ship, with a crew of over 1,200 and 20 helicopters and aircraft, will take 10 days to reach Haiti, Ansa said, citing unnamed Italian Navy sources.

The authorities have buried 70,000 bodies in mass graves, Agence France-Presse cited Carol Joseph, a government minister, as saying yesterday. A state of emergency will be in force until the end of this month, he said.

As many as 100,000 people may have died in the quake and its aftermath, Jon Andrus, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, said yesterday. “We really do not know the number,” he said in a statement.

Violence in Haiti is impeding efforts to support the government and assist survivors, Keen said. Haitian police opened fire on looters yesterday, killing at least one, as hundreds of rioters grabbed produce in a Port-au-Prince market, AFP reported.

Haiti’s police force was “devastated” by the earthquake and their presence is “limited,” Keen said. Speaking on NBC, Keen said he wasn’t sure how many U.S. troops would have to be deployed.

Clintons Meet Preval

Clinton plans to meet with Haiti’s President Rene Preval today, according to a statement from his foundation. His wife, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, met with Preval on Jan. 16.

Delivering water is the highest priority, the U.S. Southern Command said. Two purification units are operating in Haiti and another four are scheduled to arrive today aboard the USS Bataan.

The U.S. military is working with the government to coordinate the landings of as many flights as possible at Port- au-Prince airport, U.S. Air Force Colonel Buck Elton said yesterday.

The American Red Cross set up a link between Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic and is flying supplies into Santo Domingo and transporting them to Port-au-Prince, a journey that takes about 10 to 12 hours, said Nadia Pontif, a Red Cross spokeswoman, in a telephone interview. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

A lack of water and electricity is preventing Haiti’s main hospitals from functioning, and a temporary site for earthquake victims set up in tents on the UN’s logistics base is overcrowded and no longer accepting patients, the Pan-American Health Organization said.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said today that an international Haiti reconstruction conference will be held on Jan. 25 in Montreal.

To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Blum in Washington at jblum4@bloomberg.net; Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: January 18, 2010 08:53 EST


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1 thought on “U.S. Troops Heading for Haiti to Boost Security, Aid (Update1)

  1. There is no security or infrastructure here at the moment, althouh the American troops have arrived. It is still everyone for themselves.
    With the building tensions, there is a chance of violence as people fight to feed their children.
    20-January-2010 Haiti

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