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Aid groups struggle to get food, water to Haitians

 


Hundreds of U.S. paratroopers touched down in shattered Portau- Prince overnight as U.N. and other aid organizations struggled today to get food and water to stricken millions. Fears spread of unrest among the Haitian people in their fourth day of desperation. Hard-pressed government workers, meanwhile, were burying thousands of bodies in mass graves. The Red Cross estimates 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's cataclysmic earthquake. More and more, the focus fell on the daunting challenge of getting aid to survivors. United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the capital said people's anger was rising that aid hasn't been distributed quickly, and warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting. Ordinary Haitians sensed the potential for an explosion of lawlessness. "We're worried that people will get a little uneasy," said attendant Jean Reynol, 37, explaining his gas station was ready to close immediately if violence breaks out. "People who have not been eating or drinking for almost 50 hours and are already in a very poor situation," U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva. "If they see a truck with something, or if they see a supermarket which has collapsed, they just rush to get something to eat." The quake's destruction of Port-au-Prince's main prison complicated the security situation. International Red Cross spokesman Marcal Izard said some 4,000 prisoners had escaped and were freely roaming the streets. "They obviously took advantage of this disaster," Izard said. But Byrs said peacekeepers were maintaining security despite the challenges. "It's tense but they can cope," she said. The U.N. Wo r ld Fo o d Program said post-quake looting of its food supplies long s tored in Por t -au-Pr ince appears to have been limited, contrary to an earlier report this morning. It said it would start handing out 6,000 tons of food aid recovered from a damaged warehouse in the city's Cite Soleil slum. A spokeswoman for the Rome-based agency, Emilia Casella, said the WFP was preparing shipments of enough ready-to-eat meals to feed 2 million Haitians for a month. She noted that regular food stores in the city had been emptied by looters.

 
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