"A Disaster of Epic Proportion" as Violence Grows In Haiti

Despite the world-wide effort to get supplies, food, medical care and security forces to the people of Haiti, it's not happening fast enough. Violence is growing and spreading.

Apparently, the Haitian police are on the scene and they are shooting and killing looters, or leaving them to vigilante justice. Here's a dismal report from The Telegraph:

Police opened fire on a group of looters, killing at least one of them, as hundreds of rioters ransacked a supermarket. One, a man in his 30s, was killed outright by bullets to the head as the crowd grabbed produce in the Marche Hyppolite.

Another quickly snatched the rucksack off the dead man's back as clashes continued and police reinforcements descended on the area armed with pump-action shotguns and assault rifles.


Residents in the Delmas area caught two suspected looters, tied them together, beat them and dragged them through the streets. Both were eventually dumped, motionless.

...Gangs of men on Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines, their faces covered with bandannas to mask both their identity and the smell of decaying bodies, brandished machetes and sharpened planks of wood as they ran from shop to shop stealing shoes, rolls of carpet and cooking pots.

There are reports of aid workers being shot:

It is also understood that two Dominicans were shot and seriously wounded as they handed out aid.

Lieutenant General PK Keen, deputy commander of US southern Command says:

Clearly, this is a disaster of epic proportions, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us."

Update: Urban Search and Rescue today says it has not given up on finding survivors.

More than 70 people have been found alive, which is a record number for USAR operations after an earthquake. Forty-three international USAR teams, comprising 1,739 rescue workers and 161 dogs, are working on the ground around the clock, and under extremely difficult and challenging conditions.

"We haven't given up hope of finding more survivors today. Even six days later, it is still possible that we might be able to find more people alive," said Jesper Lund, head of the international USAR operations in Haiti. "

< Sunday Football Open Thread | NY Times May Charge For Online Access >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    The more the media use the word (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by hairspray on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:54:36 PM EST
    "looting" as indiscriminately as they do the more people become jaded about helping.  That happened in Katrina. It is more likely that people are desperate for food and water and are stealimg for survival and it should be reported more dispassionately.

    CNN at least appears to be (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:06:20 PM EST
    acutely aware of this and are not sensationalizing this stuff.  "Looting" is a terrible word to use for desperate people trying to keep from starving to death.

    The Telegraph is a terrible source for this kind of information because they do knock themselves out to sensationalize these things.  Shame on them.


    I agree re food (none / 0) (#7)
    by Cream City on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:11:36 PM EST
    and clothing, some clothing . . . but rolls of carpeting?  Well, I suppose it could be to try to make it more comfortable to live outside.  

    Carpet might make a better bed (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by Anne on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:19:26 PM EST
    than debris-laden ground, which probably has broken masonry, glass, nails, and other hazards on and in it.

    I'm wondering what lengths I would go to if first, I had survived the trauma of the quake and aftershocks, was living in fear of more aftershocks, and then there was no food, no clean water, no safe shelter, no electricity, and it seemed help was never going to come.

    It's beyond my ability to comprehend, really.


    I think that the barter (none / 0) (#13)
    by hairspray on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:43:22 PM EST
    system may also be the only way that some could get what they need.  Its hard to think that anyone in those conditions is going to get rich off of a roll of carpeting.

    Really! (none / 0) (#25)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:07:16 PM EST
    I think it's both and the media (none / 0) (#10)
    by nycstray on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:22:15 PM EST
    I saw did differentiate between nec supplies and unnecessary items.

    Good. This so angered me about NOLA (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Cream City on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:51:34 PM EST
    and the lack of understanding that when you and your family need food and water or they will die, you take the food and water.

    But at least there was not such wholesale slaughter in NOLA like what Haitian police reportedly are doing there now.  We were killing them more softly in NOLA.


    The highly sensationalized, inaccurate reporting (5.00 / 4) (#14)
    by esmense on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:45:35 PM EST
    that occurred after Katrina has made me leery of headlines and story arcs emphasizing "looting" and "violence." A bigger and more common story about Haitians response to this catastrophe, is most likely how, in the context of delayed foreign aid and a collapsed intrastructure, government and social structure, so many people have still managed to come together to try to retrieve the still living, aid the injured and bury the dead.  

    of course that's more important (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:40:41 PM EST
    but neither can the violence be ignored, especially when the U.S. says its increase has in some instances prevented aid workers from delivering supplies.

    It's also interesting that the Haitian police were nowhere to be found in the early days after the quake and now that they re-emerge, it's with guns to shoot. Why weren't they there helping to dig people out and provide whatever other relief they could?


    Maybe they were helping to dig people out, (none / 0) (#35)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 12:15:33 PM EST
    you know, like their own parents and kids and stuff.

    Honestly, this kind of complaining makes me crazed.

    I remember the big Northridge quake out here in LA 15 years ago.

    I was working as a waiter at the time, and after having been up all night from the earthquake and trying to pick through the knee-high rubble of broken shelves, TV, stereo, plates, glasses, etc, etc., in my apt I (gladly) left the mess to go work the lunch shift at the restaurant.

    Many waiters couldn't show up that day and since everyone's house was a wreck and electricity and gas were shut off, a lot of people found open restaurants to eat lunch.

    I'll never remember the people complaining bitterly about having to wait to be seated.

    Or the one that could not comprehend why in god's name there was no rye bread for her toasted tuna salad sandwich.

    "There's been an earthquake," I said, "roads are collapsed, people's homes are wrecked. The bakery trucks didn't make their deliveries this morning."

    If you don't care to be part of the solution, complaining about the actions of others who are doing their best to be part of the solution is really lame, imo.


    Getting U.S. military forces in (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:34:57 PM EST
    seems to be going slowly, only a 1,000 in country and hoping to have 3,000 in country tomorrow.  Why does 3,000 only sound like a drop in a deep deep bucket?

    Spread too thin, apparently, (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Anne on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:53:00 PM EST
    and this should give all of us pause.

    I know the Navy is sending the USNS Comfort (home port is here in Baltimore), but it won't get there until later in the week (Haiti is a 3-4 day sail from Baltimore), and there are two other carriers - not medical - on the way.  What I don't know is if the Army can - or intends to - set up land-based field hospitals, and whether any such operation is underway.

    I made a donation to Doctors Without Borders, but it seems just so insignificant in relation to the magnitude of the tragedy; wish there were some other way to help.


    MSF/Docs set up 4 'Inflatable Hospitals' (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Ellie on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:43:28 PM EST
    Man, do they rock.

    (The link is a few days old so presumably, the reported 4 porta-hospitals have been added-to, and the aid being bottlenecked by circumstances is getting through by now.)

    Also: another reminder to check with your local Haitian community, if you have the time and would like to help locally, to see what those volunteers need too. (Wheels, food & bev, any assistance big or small goes a long way.) If the centers at Scenic Undisclosed are any indication, the ones elsewhere are no doubt running on fumes.


    From what I heard this AM (none / 0) (#2)
    by nycstray on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:47:46 PM EST
    Military will be supplying security for the aid and that's about it.

    Blackwater (none / 0) (#5)
    by waldenpond on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 01:59:24 PM EST
    the State Dept will put mercenaries in there for security.

    Why would they do that? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:38:58 PM EST
    I honestly don't know if we would consider relying on private security, but what is it that you are pointing out?  I'm not getting something.

    Not enough military (none / 0) (#15)
    by waldenpond on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:45:58 PM EST
    to secure the supply routes.  Other countries are also sending in troops for security, but the US uses nearly as many mercenaries as it does troops.  Aid groups and visiting politicians etc will look to provide their own security.  Blackwater was used in Katrina.  I'm pointing out the privatization of security and the profiteering that goes with it.

    We have plenty of military to do this (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:54:28 PM EST
    We are not stretched that thinly anymore.  My understanding is that the only in and out is the airport and it is hopelessly jammed backed like puzzle pieces at the moment.  The Carl Vinson is there, and they have a substantial supply of helicoters to use but now there are concerns about rioting if we just airdrop supplies in.  I suppose they will wait until they have the 2,000 troops tomorrow and they will drop them into areas where they are about to make airdrops....hoping to maintain a respectful peace while trying to feed people at the same time.  It has all the earmarks of a very dangerous situation though.

    Jammed packed I mean (none / 0) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:58:30 PM EST
    I have seen reports that they have planes full of items too but no organized means of consistent delivery yet.

    There is only one runway (none / 0) (#19)
    by Cream City on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:06:43 PM EST
    at Port au Prince, and it is somewhat damaged.  At least it now is mostly cleared from all of the pileup of planes that overwhelmed it and closed the airport, as the planes landed without fuel to return.  (Many were small, private planes hired by companies and others to go get non-Haitians stranded there and then got stranded themselves with the expectation that it was a working airport.)

    And we, the U.S., only got the okay Friday from the Haitian government -- such as it is with many top leaders dead -- to take over running that one runway.  There is only one crane at the nearby port, and it is out of commission.  And as MT notes, the worry about what airdrops could cause has been borne out in some incidents -- plus, airdrops over an urban area rarely can be done safely, anyway, and access from rural airdrops is so poor with so many roads blocked by damaged and/or stranded vehicles -- and by the dead.

    Even on a good day, this is just not a busy multi-runway, multi-pier sort of city.  Nor was there the rest of sort of the infrastructure to which we are accustomed, and there is much less left of it now.  This sounds much like a small Caribbean island where I have been, and it hard to imagine the difference until you live with it for a while.  If a road is out, it is out for eons until supplies can be ferried over -- and if a ferry goes out, everything is at a standstill.

    It's like the need for mules in Afghanistan supply routes where our usual equipment just is unuseable -- and we do not expect, sadly, to win Afghanistan in a few days, either.


    Much more than military security (none / 0) (#30)
    by Cream City on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:59:13 PM EST
    when, for example, we are sending the military hospital ship -- as I read that, if it were on land, it would be the largest hospital in the land.

    We also already have sent the ship with the mobile air control tower that is making it possible for all the planes, ours and others from around the world, to land at all.

    And I read of the tons and tons of supplies that we are sending.  I don't know if we're distributing those supplies, too, though -- I think a lot is as yet unknown as to the needs, as the first thing we had to do was get in those who do the assessments.  And I suspect those assessments still are coming on re the rural areas, and that the needs are changing.

    And, of course, those who ordinarily would be doing the leadership in assessing needs and distributing supplies were the Haitians, including the Catholic church, as well as the huge U.N. force already there -- and they have been, I read, "decapitated."  I.e., many Haitian officials of agencies and leaders of parliament were killed.  The archbishop was killed.  The head of the U.N. operation was killed.  It's just astonishing, according to those experienced in these sorts of operations for hurricanes and tsunamis and such, who have not seen such breadth of destruction of leadership before -- this disaster having hit the country's capital.  


    Sadly the last figure of (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 07:53:19 PM EST
    missing U.S. military personnel who were in Haiti and familiar with Haiti in way most cannot be when this hit is 68.  They are assumed to be dead at this time.

    Hadn't seen that one -- thanks (none / 0) (#32)
    by Cream City on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 10:49:13 PM EST
    and condolences to all in the band of brothers and sisters.  I did read that there were 40,000 to 50,000 Americans in Haiti, so the death toll from this country alone is just going to keep growing -- and still will be but a fraction of the massive losses there.  It's really unimaginable in impact.

    Didn't phrase that well . . . (none / 0) (#34)
    by nycstray on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 06:52:46 AM EST
    I meant they weren't going in as security forces for the whole area and the main part of their security detail was to be securing the aid and distribution.

    Just heard this AM they are going to be constructing something in the port area so they can have another channel to bring in aid. Heavy equip is on it's way in.


    More today (none / 0) (#6)
    by waldenpond on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:04:12 PM EST
    Looks like 4 so far today dug out and one crew is working on getting two more out.

    With the 72-hour limit (none / 0) (#8)
    by Cream City on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:14:28 PM EST
    that media talked about so much, the limit for life, I also was surprised that people still are being found alive -- but it turns out that some were trapped where there was water, as in stores.  So it may be that there will be more rescues.

    However, it also is so sad to hear that many of the rescued were so injured and unable to get medical aid that they died soon after finally being freed.


    We will continue to find a few (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 02:27:17 PM EST
    that can make it beyond 72 hours, that usually happens in quake disasters. It is hard for most human beings to survive beyond 72 hours without water though.  That's where we start losing by leaps and bounds.

    Also crush injuries (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:10:02 PM EST
    are quickly deadly when they get people out, even in modern countries with functioning medical systems.  The point where they relieve the pressure on the crushed body part is the most dangerous and most quickly lethal.  IOW, by no means all but a significant precentage of these rescued folks wouldn't have survived no matter what.

    They should have beached (none / 0) (#21)
    by Salo on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:50:22 PM EST
    Some hulk ships and set up a temporary harbour so that a large amount of supplies could flow in. Get lots of little boats ready and donut Dunkirk style. The Navies of the world are showing a shocking lack of imagination.

    The problem is bigger than that (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by nycstray on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:59:13 PM EST
    it's getting it to flow once it's there. The roads are a wreck. The one leading from the airport had a huge crack/upheaval running across it.

    Saw a report this AM of a reporter who was going out on a supply run. Took over 5 hours. When they were loading the supplies, there was an aftershock, at which point the Haitian vols bolted. They were afraid the damaged warehouse would collapse. Aid workers finished on their own and then they had to face the impassible areas of the roads . . .


    There was assessment of that (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Cream City on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:47:04 PM EST
    possibiity, I read -- but it seems that there are few points that are deep enough.  (Not surprising to me, from travels to Caribbean islands, where you can swim out amazingly far and still be in shallow water.)  The current port point was the best and still needed dredging.  And large amounts of supplies (and certainly large items needed like earthmovers) are best done with a crane -- and the only crane in the port was damaged by the quake.  It's a circular mess of massive complexity.

    What say you? Better to taser than shoot (none / 0) (#27)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:14:23 PM EST
    to kill looters?  I think so.

    Searched news re: air dropped Individual Aid Kits (none / 0) (#28)
    by Ellie on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:25:21 PM EST
    Depending on the supplier, the kits are efficiently packed (usually) with MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that combine water and nutritional sustenance, and often include a body-temp preserving wrap, a small filtration mask, fuel w/ matches and light source and so on.

    A drop over a densely concentrated group of survivors reaches a wide number of people and limits rioting, hoarding and other additional dangers this kind of disaster poses, at ground level, to recipients and aid workers alike.

    Given the magnitude of the disaster, it's probably still too early for this kind of specific aid news to hit the mainstream. Got my fingers crossed that it's happening, though.

    The director is USAID was (none / 0) (#33)
    by Makarov on Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 02:03:03 AM EST
    on the morning talk show circuit, patting the govt and military on the back for delivering "600K meals" to Haiti thus far. Not one of the interviewers bothered to note that the population of Port au Prince likely exceeds 1M people. Great work...in 6 days.

    On another note, the guy struck me as appearing very young (he is, in fact 36 or 37). Must have come from watching In The Loop last night and cracking up over the White House aide scene.