24 Jan 2010

Criticism that aid still not getting to quake victims

10:08 pm on 24 January 2010

International aid workers are trying to speed up relief efforts in Haiti after criticism that food, water and medicine is not getting to many victims nearly two weeks after a devastating earthquake.

Half a million people are living in filthy conditions in about 300 makeshift camps across Haiti's shattered capital, Port-au-Prince.

Aid officials estimate supplies have reached only two-thirds of the camps.

The Haitians say 1.5 million families have lost their homes and the rainy season is approaching.

The BBC reports there is food in the markets but that it is expensive.

The aid operation is slowly improving and the World Food Programme is now feeding two million people.

But the Haitian prime minister has complained that only 10% of people in camps have received any aid at all, while some camps have received three times what they need.

The official government death toll from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake on 12 January, is now 120,000. This does not include bodies that were recovered by people's families.

An estimated 1.5 million people were left homeless.

The UN says 130,000 people have now been relocated out of Port-au-Prince.

Man rescued

A man in Haiti has been pulled alive from the rubble of a ruined hotel 11 days after it was demolished in the earthquake.

The man, Wismond Exantus, 24, worked in the hotel's grocery store.

He said he survived by drinking soft drink and eating snacks.

His family contacted a Greek team which then alerted French and American rescuers to help tunnel through to him.

Lieutenant Colonel Christophe Renou described his survival as a miracle.

He says Mr Exantus survived in a pocket under the wreckage building and his survival had probably been helped by the fact that five to six metres of debris above him was largely wood, rather than concrete.

The BBC reports Haitians and rescuers cheered as Mr Exantus, seen to be smiling, was taken towards an ambulance. He appeared to be in good condition.

The official search for quake survivors was earlier declared over.

Haiti's government said search and rescue operations ended at 4pm (local time) on Saturday.

The United Nations says most search and rescue teams will now be leaving Haiti, although some with heavy lifting equipment might stay to help with the clean up operation and with aid distribution.

A woman, 84, and a man, 22, were extracted from wreckage in the capital, Port-au-Prince on Friday.

"Record" telethon funds

Organisers of the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, led by George Clooney and Haiti-born rapper Wyclef Jean, said it raised more than US$57m for the aid effort.

Friday night's event, which was shown on all major US TV channels, YouTube and on MTV in the UK, set a new record for disaster relief telethons, said Lisa Paulsen, head of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

Organisers say that doesn't include amounts from corporations and large private donors or sales on the website, iTunes.