Haiti Earthquake Victims Despair as Food, Water and Medical Relief Delayed

Officials concerned about growing unrest over supplies, attention to foreigners.

January 15, 2010, 7:19 AM

Jan. 15, 2009— -- Despair among the Haitian people clamoring for food, water and medical care is turning into simmering anger as relief workers struggle to reach earthquake victims.

The Haitian people, as well as the thousands of foreign missionaries and aid workers trapped in the country's capital, are entering day three without food or water. Supply pallets have piled up by the tons in the Port-au-Prince airport with no way to reach the hardest hit communities.

"We're waiting, we're waiting for three or four days, just cannot do nothing," one Haitian man said, his frustration painfully obvious. "The president is staying at the airport while he does nothing for us."

"We need help because it's urgent," another citizen pleaded.

Click here for more information on how you can help the victims of the Haitian earthquake.

ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer felt the rising anger when she on the streets of Port-au-Prince today.

"I was surrounded by a giant group of people and they were yelling at me and they were yelling about the need and where is everybody and what's happening. I don't think they were going to hurt me or anybody else.. but it was that close. It's a tinderbox out there," Sawyer told "Good Morning America."

She said Lt. Gen. Ken Keen also expressed frustation at the slow movement of supplies from the airport to those who need them in the ravaged city/

"I was talking to Gen. Keen and he told me, 'Today I am going to spend my day figuring out where the bottleneck is.' He said there is water sitting in a warehouse right over there and waiting for the U.N. and other aid organizations to distribute it."

Adding to the tension is growing unrest among Haitian citizens that the search and rescue efforts have largely been focused on Americans and other foreigners. Stores have also been cleaned out by desperate Haitians, but the U.N. World Food Program denied a report that its warehouse in Port-au-Prince had been looted.

There are still no official death toll estimates, though most estimate tens of thousands were killed. Haitian President Rene Preval said that 7,000 bodies have already been buried in a mass grave, and decomposing bodies are filling the streets with a sickening stench.

"I'm very sad because my country is in great difficulty," Preval said from his post at the airport.

So far two Americans have been confirmed dead, although officials are trying to determine whether three others taken from the rubble were also Americans. In addition, several American college students and professors who were on trips to Haiti have not been heard from.

"We've been here doing everything we can," U.S. Lt. Gen. Ken Keen told "Good Morning America." "I can say our efforts have been pushed forward as fast as we can get here."

Americans Pulled Out of Rubble in Haiti Grateful for Rescue

Keen, who was already in Haiti on a separate mission when the earthquake hit, said his top concern is pushing out the relief supplies sitting in warehouses.

"They are in need of everything," he said. "Our priority is getting relief out to the needed people, to mitigate the suffering the Haitian people are experiencing."

Stefan Zannini, the head of Haiti's Doctors Without Borders, said people are simply wandering the streets looking for their friends and family members.

"I can see thousands of them walking the streets, asking for help, asking for everything," Zannini said.

Zannini said his hospital has been deluged with patients and said in the early hours, many of them died. His facility has received a shipment of antibiotics, blankets and other supplies and said his staff is even capable of doing surgeries now.

He said the most common injury among the more than 1,500 patients his doctors have seen is the "open fracture," or a compound fracture when the bone breaks through the skin.

There are already more than 300 American military troops on the ground in Haiti with thousands more expected in the coming days.

Emilia Casella of the U.N. World Food Program said the next few days will be critical as Haitians become increasingly hungry and thirsty, and as the cries of those trapped become fainter and their families become frantic.

Nevertheless, it seems to be almost impossible to speed up relief.

"The physical destruction is so great that physically getting from point A to B with the supplies is not an easy task," Casella told a news conference. "Pictures can get out instantly ... and that's important because the world needs to know. But getting physically tons and tons of equipment and food and water is not as instant as Twitter or Skype or 24-hour television news."

U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said peacekeepers were maintaining security in Haiti, despite the challenges.

"It's tense but they can cope," Byrs said. "People who have not been eating or drinking for almost 50 hours and are already in a very poor situation, if they see a truck with something ... or if they see a supermarket which has collapsed, they just rush to get something to eat."

President Bill Clinton, who has been tapped along with President George W. Bush, to coordinate relief efforts in Haiti, said delays in supplies reaching victims is inevitable in a disaster of this magnitude. He pointed out that the very first plane on the ground -- an Air China flight—took six hours just to unload.

The U.N. was planning to ask governments later today for $550 million in humanitarian pledges for Haiti.

Though several rescue teams have made it into Haiti and pulled dozens out of the rubble, more rescue workers have paced the floors in a holding center in the Dominican Republic, frustrated that every second they are delayed means someone else may be dying.

American missionary Christa Brelsford said she knows exactly how lucky she is. Recovering in a Miami hospital, Brelsford lost her leg in the earthquake when the building she was in collapsed on top of her as she raced down the stairs.

Pinned between the roof and a concrete staircase, Brelsford's brother, also in Haiti at the time, and three Haitians worked for a half-hour to free her. Brelsford told "Good Morning America" today that she had no idea that her leg was crushed to the point of being almost disconnected.

"I thought that I could still wiggle," she said. "I was wiggling all of my toes."

Once free, Brelsford was thrown on the back of a motorcyle and raced to the Sri Lankan military peace-keeping mission, where officials treated her with a splint, cookies and cough drops.

She was also given the opportunity to e-mail her family in the U.S., telling them about the damage to her leg, but "otherwise, I'm fine."

"I hope they get the best care they can as soon as possible," she said of everyone else still in Port-au-Prince. "There are a lot of unmet medical needs right now. I know that I was incredibly lucky."

Overnight, seven Americans were carried out of the broken remains of the once-posh Hotel Montana. They had been trapped for more than two days.

New Jersey resident Sarla Chand was surprisingly chipper, snacking on a cookie and thanking her rescuers.

Richard Santos and Jim Gulley, also pulled from the Hotel Montana, said they pulled out the only snacks they had with them -- Orbitz gum and a Tootsie Roll lollipop.

"For us not to die -- even that magnitude -- for 50 hours . We were rescued," Chand said. "It is a second life."

The Associated Press and ABC News' Sarah Netter and Kate McCarthy contributed to this report.

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