Haiti Relief: Anger Mounts Among Desperate Haitians Over Supplies Stuck at Airport

Tensions mount as rescue workers race to beat the clock on finding survivors.

January 15, 2010, 2:28 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 15, 2010— -- Tensions are becoming dangerously high on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as increasingly desperate Haitians search for food and water while tons of supplies remain stuck at the country's airport.

"What's going on? We can't even breathe! Who is helping us?" a man cried out today to an ABC News camera crew. Wearing a yellow bandana over his face and surrounded by other young and angry men, he said, "It takes one night to get the U.S. troops here, you know. It takes just a second for the military to get here."

"We're waiting, we're waiting for three or four days. Just cannot do nothing," another Haitian man said. "The president is staying at the airport while he does nothing for us."

"People have been almost fighting for water," aid worker Fevil Dubien said as he distributed water from a truck in a northern Port-au-Prince neighborhood.

ABC News has witnessed looting of damaged buildings in the capital with people walking off with boxes of T-shirts, a cabinet and kitchen appliance along with food and water.

Gerard Magliore, whose 22-year-old daughter was found dead in the rubble, spoke to reporters as he took a ring off his dead daughter's finger.

"We haven't seen any government help here, nobody from the U.N., nobody," he said. "There were 24 bodies here last night. We buried them ourselves. This is my daughter. She's 22. We've just recovered her body from under the rubble. Tell people what is happening here in Haiti."

Former President Bill Clinton, now the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti, suggested he understood why people might be angry.

"I think it's understandable when human beings are as distressed and stressed as the Haitians are when they've suffered such grievous losses and they're still experiencing aftershocks -- there were more today -- that it is an extremely anxious environment," he said. "And add to that the difficulty of loved ones still trapped in rubble, inadequate food, water, medical supplies, you can certainly relate to the challenges that the people of Haiti face.

"I think that everyone agrees that up until this point the matters have been well in hand," he added. "But there is a process of grieving which includes anger. If you look at stages of grief, that is a stage that is just part of the human DNA."

Clinton defended at least one aspect of the U.N. response.

"We think that the U.N. peacekeepers are doing an excellent job," he said. "They have about 7,000 peacekeepers. They're on the streets. They're patrolling. They are primarily responsible for law and order. But they need help. The Haitian police force has been severely impacted. We get varying estimates of how many are actually left and able to be on the streets themselves."

Rising Anger on Haiti's Desperate Streets

ABC's "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer felt the rising anger when she was 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 frustration 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."

The Associated Press reported gangs of men and young boys with machetes were looting, and relief officials have said the city's shops have been stripped of food and water.

President Obama held his third news conference in three days about Haiti today and urged people to be patient with the relief efforts. He called the scale of the devastation "extraordinary" and said it would take time for food and clean water to reach distribution points.

Clinton said officials were "making a lot of progress" toward improving the situation.

"It's just a race against time," he said. "It's a race against time in the search-and-rescue missions. It's a race against time to establish some means for clearing the roads so more supplies can get in. But, boy, everybody is pushing as hard as they can. So I think we're making a lot of progress. I just want to make sure we move as quickly and effectively as we can."

Obama will meet at the White House Saturday with former presidents Clinton and George W. Bush to discuss additional relief efforts. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she will tour Haiti on Saturday. The Obama administration also announced today that it is granting temporary protected status for the next 18 months to illegal Haitian immigrants who were in the U.S. as of Tuesday, when the quake struck.

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

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 since 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," a compound fracture when the bone breaks through the skin.

Haiti's Secretary of State for Public Safety Aramick Louis told Reuters that officials have begun clearing the streets of corpses and have buried 40,000 so far. He also estimated another 100,000 have died.

The stench of decomposing bodies is filling the streets and Joanna Smith, writing on Twitter from Haiti, said people are smearing toothpaste under their noses to mask the foul smell.

U.S. Helicopters Start Ferrying Relief to Haiti

The U.S. military relief team grew larger today with members of the 82nd Airborne division distributing relief supplies. And offshore, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson sent helicopters into the city with supplies.

Some 60 aid flights jammed Haiti's international airport and were unloading tons of water, food, blankets, medicine and other survival equipment.

U.S. officials also reported at least 14 U.S. military flights into the Port-au-Prince airport -- including eight C-17 transport planes and six C-130 aircraft.

So many relief planes had arrived that the U.S. Air Force, which had assumed control of the airport to direct traffic, was having trouble finding room for more planes to land.

In the aftermath of the quake, the airport lacks a control tower and radar, and has little equipment to refuel the planes so they can depart, or stairs to access the planes.

Haiti therefore accepted technical help today from the U.S. Federal Avaition Administration.

The Haitians still control the airspace over Haiti, but the FAA now has instituted procedures to try to ease the flow of planes into the airspace and into the airport and to try to ensure safety.

That meant that as of 7 p.m. Friday, the FAA planned to coordinate air traffic flow management into Haiti. At the request of the international community and Haiti's neighbors, Haiti and the FAA were to work together to prioritize incoming and outgoing flights.

The U.S.-Haiti agreement on regulating air traffic also enabled U.S. doctors to legally treat patients in Haiti.

Two dozen search and rescue teams from all over the world already have arrived in Haiti, each team comprised of between 70 to 80 people plus equipment, according to Dr. Rajiv Shah, the USAID administrator who is coordinating the U.S. response.

When asked about criticism that the rescue teams are only helping foreigners and the wealthy, Shah insisted that the teams were deployed "with direct guidance to reach Haitians and to make saving the Haitian lives a priority along with saving the lives of U.S. citizens."

As of late Friday afternoon, the State Department had confirmed six American deaths -- but 15 more possible deaths either were pending confirmation or notification of families, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. In addition, three U.S. officials remained unaccounted for, and the U.S. embassy had approximately 5,000 unresolved missing persons reports.

Crowley added at least 197 Americans had been evacuated Friday -- on top of hundreds moved out on previous days.

Former President Clinton announced that the State Department has added a new feature to its Haiti earthquake Web site called the "person finder" that is designed to make it easier for people to locate lost loved ones in Haiti.

Clinton voiced concern for the plight of Americans in Haiti.

"I'm very troubled," he said. "Communication is still very difficult. And we are encouraged by those with whom we have made contact and the hundreds and hundreds that we've evacuated at their request. But we're working feverishly to track down as many as we possibly can."

U.S. Fundraising Efforts

Donations have been pouring in from all over the world. Mobile texting donations to the Red Cross have now topped $10 million. As of Friday afternoon, the Red Cross reported that donations have totaled nearly $60 million.

The United States has pledged more than $100 million in support, with the World Bank pledging an additional $100 million. Corporations have donated over $40 million.

ABC News' Kirit Radia, Lisa Stark and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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