LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) – Tensions have risen over the slow pace of aid reaching victims of a powerful weekend earthquake that killed more than 2,100 people in Haiti and was followed by a deep tropical depression. .
At the small airport in the southwestern community of Les Cayes, crowds of people gathered outside the fence on Wednesday when an aid flight arrived and crews began loading boxes onto waiting trucks. One of a small squad of Haitian national police, dressed in military-style uniforms and stationed at the airport to monitor aid shipments, fired two warning shots to disperse a group of youths.
Angry crowds also concentrated on collapsed buildings in the city, demanding tarps to create temporary shelters after Tropical Storm Grace brought heavy rains earlier in the week.
Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency on Wednesday night raised the death toll from the earthquake to 2,189 from a previous tally of 1,941 and said 12,268 people were injured. Dozens of people are still missing.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged more than 12,000, leaving some 30,000 families homeless, according to official estimates. Schools, offices and churches were also demolished or badly damaged. The southwestern region of the Caribbean nation was the most affected.
One of the first food deliveries by local authorities, a couple dozen boxes of rice and pre-packed and measured food kits, arrived at a tent camp set up in one of the poorest areas of Les Cayes. , where most of the ash from one-story tin-roofed houses were damaged or destroyed by Saturday’s earthquake.
But the shipment was clearly insufficient for the hundreds who have lived under tents and tarps for five days.
“It is not enough, but we will do everything we can to make sure everyone gets at least something,” said Vladimir Martino, a resident of the camp who took over the distribution.
Gerda Francoise, 24, was one of dozens who lined up in the scorching heat in hopes of receiving food. “I don’t know what I’m going to get, but I need something to take to my store,” Francoise said. “I have a son.”
International aid workers on the ground said hospitals in the worst affected areas are mostly disabled and there is a desperate need for medical equipment. But the government told at least one foreign organization that has been operating in the country for nearly three decades that it did not need the help of hundreds of its volunteer doctors.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry said Wednesday that his administration will work not to “repeat the story about mismanagement and coordination of aid,” a reference to the chaos that followed the devastating 2010 earthquake in the country, when the government was accused of not getting all the money. raised by donors to people in need.
Meanwhile, the Core Group, a coalition of key international diplomats from the United States and other nations that monitors Haiti, said in a statement that its members are “resolutely committed to working alongside national and local authorities to ensure that people and the affected areas receive adequate assistance as soon as possible. “
Aid has been pouring in slowly to help the thousands of people who have been left homeless. But distributing it under current conditions will be challenging.
“We are planning a meeting to start cleaning up all the sites that were destroyed, because that will give the owner of that site at least the opportunity to build something temporary, out of wood, to live on that site,” said Serge Chery. Head of Civil Defense of the Southern Province, which covers Les Cayes. “It will be easier to distribute aid if people live at their addresses, rather than in a tent.”
Chery said an estimated 300 people are still missing in the area.
The United States Geological Survey said a preliminary analysis of satellite images after the earthquake revealed hundreds of landslides.
While some officials have suggested that the search phase should end and heavy machinery should be called in to clean up the debris, Henry did not seem ready to move to that stage.
“Some of our citizens are still under the rubble. We have teams of foreigners and Haitians working on that, ”he said.
He also called for unity: “We have to put our heads together to rebuild Haiti.”
“The country is physically and mentally destroyed,” Henry said.
Dr. Barth Green, president and co-founder of Project Medishare, an organization that has worked in Haiti since 1994 to improve health services, said he was hopeful that the US military would establish a field hospital in the affected area.
“All the hospitals are broken and collapsed, the operating rooms are down, and then if you bring in tents, it’s hurricane season, they can blow up right away,” Green said.
Green noted that his organization has “hundreds of medical volunteers, but the Haitian government tells us they don’t need them.” However, the organization was unfolding alongside others.
Associated Press writers Trenton Daniel in New York, Christopher Sherman and Regina García Cano in Mexico City, and David McFadden in Baltimore contributed to this report.