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In Haiti, signs that foreign aid flow is strengthening

As Haiti earthquake relief efforts continued, President Barack Obama joined with predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to appeal for donations and sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Caribbean nation.

By Alfred de Montesquiou and Mike MeliaAssociated Press / January 16, 2010



Port-au-Prince, Haiti

There were growing signs Saturday that foreign aid and rescue workers were getting to the people most in need - even those buried deep beneath collapsed buildings - while others struggled to cope with the countless bodies still left on the streets.

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Haiti's government alone has already recovered 20,000 bodies - not counting those recovered by independent agencies or relatives themselves, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Associated Press. Mr. Bellerive said an estimated 300,000 people are living on the streets in Port-au-Prince, and "getting them water, and food, and a shelter is our top priority."

The Red Cross estimates 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's magnitude-7.0 earthquake. A third of Haiti's 9 million people may be in need of aid

Clinton heads to Haiti

In Washington, President Barack Obama joined with his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to appeal for donations to help Haiti and he sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Caribbean nation.

The US military operating Haiti's damaged main airport said it can now handle 90 flights a day, but that wasn't enough to cope with all the planes sent by foreign donors and governments circling overhead in hopes of winning one of the few spots available on the tarmac.

The US Southern Command said it now has 24 helicopters flying relief missions - many from warships off the coast - with 4,200 military personnel involved and 6,300 more due by Monday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the World Food Program was providing high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals to around 8,000 people "several times a day.

"Obviously, that is only a drop in the bucket in the face of the massive need, but the agency will be scaling up to feed approximately 1 million people within 15 days and 2 million people within a month," he said.

Blocked roads, limited equipment

The effort to get aid to the victims has been slowed by blocked roads, congestion at the airport, limited equipment and other obstacles. U.N. peacekeepers patrolling the capital said public anger was rising and warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting.

International Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally said a convoy with a field hospital and medical workers was heading into Haiti by road Saturday from the Dominican Republic because "it's not possible to fly anything into Port-au-Prince right now. The airport is completely congested.

The World Health Organization has said eight hospitals in Port-au-Prince were destroyed or damaged, severely curtailing treatment available for the injured.

Officials said damage to the seaport also is a problem for bringing in aid. The arrival Friday of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson helped immediately by taking pressure off the airport. Within hours, an 82nd Airborne Division rapid response unit was handing out food, water, and medical supplies from two cargo pallets outside the airport.

Others tried to help in smaller ways. Milero Cedamou, the owner of a small water delivery company, twice drove his small tanker truck to a tent camp where thousands of homeless people are living. Hundreds clustered around to fill their plastic buckets

"This is a crisis of unspeakable magnitude; it's normal for every Haitian to help," Cedamou said. "This is not charity."

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