The death toll in the Haiti quake has topped 200,000, PM Jean-Max Bellerive said, as angry protests over the slow arrival of aid flared on the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince.
More than three weeks after the 7.0-magnitude quake, Bellerive said his tiny Caribbean nation had been ravaged by “a disaster on a planetary scale” and detailed the tragic toll suffered by his people.
“There are more than 200,000 people who have been clearly identified as people who are dead,” he said, adding that another 300,000 had been treated for injuries, 250,000 homes had been destroyed and 30,000 businesses lost.
At least 4,000 amputations have also been carried out due to horrific crush injuries – a shocking figure which is likely to strain the impoverished nation’s already meager resources for years to come.
Despite a massive aid operation, a lack of coordination and the extent of the damage has hampered the distribution of food and water leading to mounting tensions among a million people left homeless.
“The Haitian government has done nothing for us, it has not given us any work. It has not given us the food we need,” said Sandrac Baptiste bitterly, as she left her makeshift tent to join angry demonstrations.
In separate protests after a tense night when shots were fired in the ruined capital Port-au-Prince, some 300 people gathered outside the mayor’s office in the once upscale Petionville neighborhood.
“If the police fire on us, we are going to set things ablaze,” one of the protesters shouted, raising a cement block above his head.
Another 200 protesters marched toward the US embassy, crying out for food and aid, and about 50 protestors also gathered outside the police headquarters where the Haitian government of President Rene Preval is temporarily installed.
“Down with Preval,” demonstrators shouted at the president who has only spoken to the people a few times since the disaster struck.
‘No tents, no food’
“There are no tents! There is no food!” protested Bousiquot Widmack, while demonstrators who said they were government workers complained their homes had collapsed, they had not been paid, and they had nothing to eat.
Amid the mounting frustration, UN chief Ban Ki-moon asked former US president Bill Clinton to “assume a leadership role” in coordinating the international aid, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing.
“The aim… is to provide strategic guidance to the United Nations involvement at an international level,” Nesirky said.
Clinton added: “The trick is to get the Haitian people back where they can stop living from day-to-day and start living from week-to-week or month-to-month and then start the long-term efforts.
“They, the leaders there, want to build a functioning, modern state for the first time, and I will do what I can to faithfully represent and work with all the agencies of the UN and help them get it done,” he added.
Food aid pledges
Countries, companies and individuals have promised more than 230 million dollars to the World Food Programme for its Haiti emergency operations, the UN agency said.
Marjorie Michel, the Haitian minister in charge of women’s affairs, said neighborhood committees were reporting a rise in the number of rapes in the tent camps, although women were reluctant to make a formal complaint.
She said teams were being sent into the camps to try to deal with the situation, and promised separate bathroom facilities would be installed in new camps.
A Haitian judge was meanwhile also due to question a group of Americans accused of trying to smuggle children out of the quake-stricken nation.
Ten US Christians from the Idaho-based New Life Children’s Refuge have been detained in Haiti since the weekend after they tried to smuggle some 33 children out of the country to neighboring Dominican Republic.