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Friday, January 15, 2010
Haiti Earthquake: Help Is Delayed by Access - WSJ.com
"A seriously damaged national port. An already swamped airport. Hospitals in shambles. A homeless president. No fuel. A capital city without phone service or electricity. As military and rescue teams began to stream in Thursday from the U.S. and other countries, veterans of past disasters say the grim realities of the Haiti earthquake set it apart from many other calamities, including the 2004 tsunami that devastated communities around the Indian Ocean, killing an estimated quarter million people. "There are a lot of dimensions that make this an especially complicated situation," said Steve Hollingworth, chief operating officer at the Atlanta-based relief group CARE. Haiti's almost nonexistent government and its battered infrastructure are among the top challenges that will plague relief efforts in coming days and weeks, aid veterans say. Also high on their lists: the country's extreme poverty and history of violence. "When a country's capital city is decimated, you lose a lot in terms of staging and organization," said Randy Martin, head of global emergency operations at Mercy Corps International. Little organization and crumbling infrastructure has stalled relief efforts in Haiti, where time is running out for possible survivors in the rubble. Military and aid groups began to encounter huge obstacles getting relief into the country, less than two days after the earthquake killed an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people. U.S. military specialists reestablished communications at the Port-au-Prince airport, but a lack of fuel and a crammed tarmac prompted the Haitian government to halt incoming flights. While one airport runway was usable, air-traffic control was limited, able to handle only four aircraft at a time, logistics companies said. "