WASHINGTON: Rescue teams, doctors and soldiers rushed by land, sea and air Thursday to bring life-saving food and medicines to the survivors of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
From all corners of the world, a vast relief operation swung into top gear as hundreds of thousands of homeless, injured and traumatized spent a second night on the corpse-strewn streets and sidewalks of Port-au-Prince.
Planes began arriving at the capital’s still-functioning airport bringing surgeons, field hospitals, water and emergency medical supplies, while search and rescue teams with sniffer dogs readied to pick through the debris.
Governments and aid organizations unlocked millions of dollars and launched appeals for more to aid survivors and help reconstruct ruined homes, schools and hospitals in one of the world’s poorest nations.
Haiti’s prime minister said Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude quake, which flattened Port-au-Prince, may have killed more than 100,000 people.
Planeloads of rescue teams and relief supplies were quickly dispatched from countries including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.
As a wealthy neighbor with the world’s most powerful military, the United States was well-placed to lead the effort, mobilizing an array of specialists, ships, planes and helicopters.
“I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives, Obama said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned from a trip to help coordinate the US operation, with forward teams of civilian and military experts already landing at the scene.
More rescuers and equipment were on their way by sea and overland from the neighboring Dominican Republic.
The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier was set to arrive later Thursday with destroyers and more Coast Guard ships, and 5,000 troops were on stand-by.
Former US president Bill Clinton, now UN special envoy in Haiti, appealed for funds, saying even a dollar or two would help alleviate “one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.
“What Haiti needs most is money for water, food, shelter and basic medical supplies to bring immediate relief to those who are homeless, hungry and hurt, he wrote in a commentary for the Washington Post.
The Red Cross launched a $10-million appeal for donations, the World Food Program offered 15,000 tons of food and the World Bank vowed an extra $100 million in aid.
“We are entering a critical period. There must be massive humanitarian aid arriving this evening, said Olivier Bernard, president of the medical relief agency organization Medecins du Monde.
He told AFP: “To save lives, surgery must be available ideally within the first 48 hours.
A British flight carrying some 75 officials and rescue specialists arrived in the Dominican Republic en route to Haiti. They were accompanied by sniffer dogs and 10 tons of equipment.
International development minister Douglas Alexander said London would put up nearly $10 million.
He told BBC radio: “The most basic needs – the need for shelter, the need for water, the need for medicine and the need for food – are going to emerge, we sense, on an immense scale in the hours, days and weeks ahead.
The international Red Cross said that it was sending 40 tons of medical supplies while the International Organization for Migration called for “tents, tents and more tents to shelter the homeless.
A Chinese aircraft brining relief workers and 20 tons of aid has reached Haiti, state news agency Xinhua reported, while the Chinese Red Cross Society is donating $1 million in supplies.
Israel said it was sending two planes with a field hospital and around 220 emergency personnel.
Cuba, which felt the quake, sent 30 doctors to join staff already in Haiti. Brazil said it was providing $10 million in immediate aid, while Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Guatamala and Chile also promised help.
Canada readied two warships, helicopters and planes with supplies, as well as a large relief and rescue force.
From the Asia-Pacific region, Australia pledged $9 million while Taiwan, whose ambassador to Haiti was hurt, South Korea and New Zealand also offered aid.
Japan, well used to quakes, pledged $5 million and offered tents and rescuers.
The World Health Organization is deploying specialists to help handle mass casualties and corpses, warning of the danger of communicable diseases.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, head of the Catholic charity Caritas, said he hoped the global attention and aid being focused on Haiti would help provide “lasting solutions to the country’s myriad problems. -AFP