Officials: Haiti Death Toll May Be 200,000, Toothpaste Becomes Priceless


haiti5Troops, doctors and aid workers flowed into Haiti today even while victims of the quake that killed an estimated 200,000 people still struggled to find a cup of water or a handful of food.

European nations pledged more than a half-billion dollars in emergency and long-term aid, on top of at least $100 million promised earlier by the U.S.

But help was still not reaching many victims of Tuesday’s quake – choked back by transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys, the collapse of local authority and the sheer scale of the need.

The security situation in Haiti is stable, said Rear Admiral Mike Rogers. “There is nothing inhibiting our missions,” he said. “There is no sense of widespread panic.” Some looting is going on, he noted, but teams on the ground are able to “execute the full range of operations.”

Looting spread to more parts of downtown Port-au-Prince as hundreds of young men and boys clambered up broken walls to break into shops and take whatever they can find. Especially prized was toothpaste, which people smear under their noses to fend off the stench of decaying bodies.

At one place, youths fought over a stock of rum with broken bottles, machetes and razors, and police fired shots into the air to break up the crowd.

“I am drinking as much as I can. It gives courage,” said Jean-Pierre Junior, wielding a broken wooden plank with nails to protect his bottle of rum.

Even so, the U.S. Army’s on-the-ground commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, said the city is seeing less violence than before the earthquake. “Is there gang violence? Yes. Was there gang violence before the earthquake? Absolutely.'”

Keen said some 2,000 Marines were set to join 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Monday he wants 1,500 more U.N. police and 2,000 more troops to join the existing 7,000 military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police in Haiti.

{ Newscenter}