18 Jan 2010

State of emergency declared in Haiti

9:20 pm on 18 January 2010

Haiti has declared a state of emergency until the end of the month as United States soldiers are given the go-ahead to be deployed to keep order on increasingly lawless streets of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The government says 70,000 bodies have been buried in mass graves so far in the earthquake-shattered Caribbean island nation.

Despite the misery on the streets of the capital and criticism of the time it has taken to get aid to survivors, the country's president says his people will understand.

Emergency aid is finally reaching some parts of the earthquake-devastated capital. However, demand is still far outstripping supply and survivors are becoming desperate as they wait for aid.

Survivors are having to fend for themselves as they struggle through another night without the basic necessitites. Tens of thousands of people are living on the streets of the capital, hungry, thirsty and calling out for help.

The Red Cross says there is a back-log of aid at Haiti's main airport in the capital because of congestion. The port is blocked.

It has been flying in supplies to neigbouring Dominican Republic to try to distribute aid more efficiently.

The Red Cross has also managed to set up a field hospital and send out two mobile clinics.

But another medical aid group, Doctors without Borders, says it is being given no reason why its plane full of aid was diverted to the Dominican Republic.

Spokesperson Marie Noelle Rodrigue says the group is trying to get a mobile hospital into Port-au-Prince, with two more planes are due to land later on Monday.

Many injured people will die of infection in the next 24 hours unless equipment and medical supplies arrive, says the head of a makeshift hospital in the capital.

Thousands of people are waiting for routine operations to save their lives, but essential surgical supplies are slow in getting through, says Jennifer Payvid.

Dr Payvid says many in her 160-bed hospital will die in the next 24 hours of infection that has now set in around their injuries.

Port-au-Prince and other centres were devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Tuesday. The death toll is mounting and could reach 200,000.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is visiting Haiti, says its priorities are to save as many people as possible, to bring emergency aid in the form of water, food and medication, and to co-ordinate the aid effort.

Mr Ban says strong, effective co-ordination between the UN, the United States and other agencies operating in Haiti is needed to avoid vital supplies sitting in warehouses.