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Rule Of Jungle In Desperate Haiti

PTI 18 Jan 2010, 9:38:49 AM IST

Relief workers in Haiti struggled for the fifth day on Sunday to assist desperate quake survivors amid anger over the chaotic aid effort, as two former US presidents admitted the country's recovery will be long. 

Aid continued to trickle in but failed to reach many of those most in need after Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake brought death and misery on an unprecedented scale to the impoverished and dysfunctional Caribbean nation. 

Former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, named by the White House as special coordinators of aid to Haiti, vowed late Saturday they would not abandon the stricken country. "It's a long road to full recovery, but we will not leave the Haitian people to walk it alone," they wrote in The New York Times. 

They said that in the future, Haiti will need better schools, sturdier, more secure buildings and diverse industries that create jobs and foster opportunities for greater trade. 

US chopper crews flew in and unloaded boxes of vital supplies as massive queues formed at distribution points where the UN's World Food Programme handed out food. 

As the fate of whole towns and villages around the capital in western Haiti remained unclear, the United Nations said it had never before faced such a humanitarian catastrophe. "We have never been confronted with such a disaster in the UN memory. It is like no other," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP in Geneva. 

The destruction found on Saturday in the town of Leogane, just 17km west of Port-au-Prince, was staggering — street after street of homes and businesses torn apart. "It's the very epicenter of the earthquake, and many, many thousands are dead," said WFP spokesman David Orr. "Nearly every house was destroyed. The military are talking 20,000 to 30,000 dead." 

The latest overall toll is at least 50,000 people dead and 1.5 million homeless, but those figures could soar once the full extent of the tragedy is known. Early estimates had spoken of 100,000 dead. 

The UN said increasing numbers of Haitians were trying to cross the border into the Dominican Republic, to the east. AFP