US official: Violence in Haiti hindering aid work

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WASHINGTON -- Some incidents of violence in Haiti have hindered rescue workers trying to help earthquake victims, a top official leading the U.S. government's relief efforts said Sunday.

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A police officer patrols Port-au-Prince downtown to discourage looting Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010.  Associated Press
Associated Press
A police officer patrols Port-au-Prince downtown to discourage looting Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010.

Providing humanitarian aid requires a safe and secure environment, said Lt. Gen. Ken Keen of the U.S. Southern Command. While streets have been largely calm, he said, violence has been increasing.

"We are going to have to address the situation of security," Keen said. "We've had incidents of violence that impede our ability to support the government of Haiti and answer the challenges that this country faces."

Keen said about 1,000 U.S. troops are in Haiti and that 3,000 more are working from ships. More than 12,000 U.S. forces are expected to be in the region by Monday.

Fear of looters and robbers has been one of the factors slowing the delivery of aid. After Tuesday's earthquake, maintaining law and order fell to the 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers and international police already in Haiti even though those forces also sustained heavy losses in the disaster.

Keen said U.S. forces are working with U.N. peacekeepers and that local police are beginning to assist in providing security.

On Sunday, the White House said President Barack Obama had issued an order allowing selected members of the military's reserves to be called up to support operations in Haiti. Signed Saturday, the executive order permits the Defense Department and Homeland Security Department to tap reserve medical personnel and a Coast Guard unit that will help provide port security. More than 250 medical personnel from the Health and Human Services Department are already in Haiti.

Rescue efforts and getting food, water and medical supplies to earthquake victims were the focus of efforts Sunday, U.S. officials said.

An estimated 100,000 or more people may have died in the magnitude-7.0 quake. As of Sunday, the State Department said the total number of confirmed U.S. death was 16, including one embassy worker.

Rajiv Shah, who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, said U.S. relief workers are also trying to rescue people from under the damaged and destroyed buildings.

"Our first priority was to go in with urban search and rescue teams," said Shah, who visited Haiti on Saturday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "They work around the clock to try and save lives."

Rescuers, he said, still hoped to find more survivors buried in the rubble.

"On next priority, which started in parallel, was getting those commodities down there and making sure we have the food, water, shelter and basic needs met for the people of Haiti," Shah said.

International search and rescue teams are looking for earthquake survivors around the clock as officials running the rescue effort get closer to shifting to a recovery operation.

There have been 62 live rescues, Tim Callaghan of the U.S. Agency for International Development's foreign disaster assistance office said Sunday. American search and rescue teams had performed 29 of those rescues.

"We are still in rescue mode," Callaghan said in a conference call with reporters. He said the decision to move to recovery will be made by the Haitian government. "Obviously we're getting closer to that painful decision of moving from searching for people to recovery," Callaghan said.

Air Force Col. Buck Elton, commander of the U.S. forces directing flights at Haiti's airport, told reporters that 24 patients have been brought to the airfield for treatment. Of those, 16 were Americans with what Elton described as "crush injuries."

Elton said the ability to get flights in and out was improving steadily. He said the rush of supplies and aid from other countries initially overwhelmed the airport's limited capacity. Decisions also have to be made on which cargo is the highest priority and needs to come in right away.

Elton said about 60 percent of the flights coming in are civilian and 40 percent are military. The Port-au-Prince airfield's capacity is up to 100 aircraft per day, and 30 military helicopters are delivering supplies across the country.

National Security Council aide Dennis McDonough said the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Oak arrived Sunday with heavy cranes and other machinery to get Haiti's main shipping port up and running. The port was heavily damaged by the earthquake and is central flow point for fuel.

Keen and Shah spoke on ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press" and "Fox News Sunday."

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deekster
24
Points
deekster 01/18/10 - 09:23 am
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0
Tragically and immediately

Tragically and immediately civilization breaks down. This should be a "lesson learned", but it will not. This horrible tragedy could save future lives, but it will not. Everything, including human tragedy, becomes a "political opportunity". A time to seize power and collect money.

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 01/18/10 - 10:29 am
0
0
The spiritual side is the

The spiritual side is the problem and needs fixing along with the physical. This same thing happens anyplace the spiritual side is weak when something physical happens. Problems happen everywhere and it is the character of those reacting that makes the difference. In fact; a strain such as this or the situation in New Orleans always shows the character of the people whether good or bad. Just as their buildings need a strong foundation so do the people.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 01/18/10 - 11:00 am
0
0
Hilliary and Shah's plane

Hilliary and Shah's plane seats could have been for rescuers or medical supplys. Why do these people have such a desire to go and be seen when in fact they accomplish nothing.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 01/18/10 - 11:00 am
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Amen soldout!!! Sadly the

Amen soldout!!! Sadly the "spiritual side" will be lost in "man's failure" to provide immediate satisfaction. I'm reminded of the ten lepers who were healed and only one returned to give thanks. "Social Christianity" will not meet the needs of these people. All of the efforts in the world will not satisfy those that will not be helped.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 01/18/10 - 11:04 am
0
0
Haiti is, as a BBC

Haiti is, as a BBC documentary reported, a social and humanistic lab experiment gone wrong. "They have literally and figuratively eaten themselves out of house and home." But hey, we have Detroit. The scenes remind me of "Black Hawk Down"

corgimom
32248
Points
corgimom 01/18/10 - 12:37 pm
0
0
Wait until a US soldier

Wait until a US soldier shoots a looter. It will be bad. And soldout, spirituality doesn't do diddly when you don't have food, water, shelter, or medical care for injured people. Those people are desperate and in life-threatening conditions.

TheDeerhunter
0
Points
TheDeerhunter 01/18/10 - 12:40 pm
0
0
i heard many of the soldiers

i heard many of the soldiers have no ammo in their m16s

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 01/18/10 - 01:04 pm
0
0
Spirituality doesn't do

Spirituality doesn't do diddly; it does everything; and is key in this situation. All answers happen in the spiritual realm before they are seen in the natural. The spiritual side is the side that gives the wisdom to get to the food and water and to meet every need. Feeding without teaching and speaking the truth is like restoring an old car to perfection and then pushing it off a cliff. Jesus did both and I don't think we can improve on His example. People who have been there tell me the oppression from the devil is so strong there you can feel it the instant you land.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 01/18/10 - 01:16 pm
0
0
No surprise here. Have you

No surprise here. Have you seen the national news? The US is already being criticized by France & the like for our efforts in Haiti. Apparently we are not managing things well enough. This will be the Obama administrations Katrina. Wait & see.

KSL
129207
Points
KSL 01/18/10 - 04:45 pm
0
0
Now that's sick. The French

Now that's sick. The French criticizing the US efforts. France has some responsibilty for conditions in Haiti prior to the earthquake.

Georgiais1
0
Points
Georgiais1 01/18/10 - 07:44 pm
0
0
One picture is worth a

One picture is worth a thousand words.

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