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Security Council to meet as first aid reaches regions

The UN Security Council will meet Monday to discuss the coordination of the huge aid operation for quake-hit Haiti, Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.


Earlier, the organisation said it was the worst disaster it had ever confronted, largley due to lack of basic infrastructure. With entire regions obliterated and many local services non existent, the coordination of aid was proving to be a mammoth effort.

The UN now believes up to 3 million Haitians are in need of aid.

Some of the aid building up at the airport is reportedly starting to get through to where it is most needed.

Some aid reaching regions

A first shipment of UN food aid arrived on Saturday in the ruined Haitian town of Leogane, where street after street of homes and businesses was torn apart by this week’s devastating earthquake.

Just 17 kilometres (10 miles) west of the capital Port-au-Prince, Leogane was close to the epicentre of Tuesday’s quake and almost every structure, from the historic central church to seafront beer shacks, was damaged.

Thousands -no one yet knows how many- of people were killed. But with the international rescue effort concentrated in Haiti’s capital, Leogane’s people have so far been left to fend for themselves in ad hoc squatter camps.

On Saturday, Sri Lankan United Nations troops escorted in a single truck load of high energy biscuits for the World Food Programme, and small teams of international aid workers made their first forays to inspect the damage.

“It’s the very epicenter of the earthquake, and many, many thousands are dead,” said World Food Program spokesman David Orr, as peacekeepers raised the UN, Sri Lankan and Haitian banners for the television crews.

“Nearly every house was destroyed here. The military are talking about 20,000 to 30,000 dead,” he said, as WFP staff handed out packs of biscuits to a crowd that had gathered in front of Leogane’s ruined city hall.

The cheerful queues of mainly young men and women, marshalled by the Sri Lankans, grinned playfully as youngsters tried to jump in front, some filming each other with their mobile phones as they awaited their emergency rations.

For, although locals welcomed the arrival of the aid effort as a sign they had not been abandoned, the biscuit drop was of mainly symbolic value.

Aid, and more aid, desperately needed

Barely 20 metres (yards) from the truck, stalls sold onions, eggs and garlic and mothers cooked steaming bowls of rice and beans under shelters of wood, sheets and UN and USAID left behind from previous hurricane disasters.

Leogane is in desperate need, but not of biscuits.

With all public and health services out and the bulk of the population homeless and living in cramped bivouacs, the city needs medical supplies and clinics.

And, in the longer term, it will need to be rebuilt.

“It’s a small distribution that not worthy of the catastrophe that has befallen us,” said 49-year-old events promoter Maxime Dumont, pointing out that his house was the only left standing on its stretch of street.

Two jeeploads of foreign aid workers, including one from Save the Children, had also come to Leogane to see what they could do to help, but all three city hospitals were closed, and one had entirely collapsed.

Picture of destruction in countryside

Once elegant colonial-era homes had crumbled in sad heaps of wood and soft bricks, while the more modern structures had collapsed in shattered pancakes of jagged concrete slabs and twisted steel reinforcing rods.

In the Ruelle des Fleurs (Flower Lane), a once elegant residential street of two and three-story detached homes overlooked by palm trees and draped in red blossoms, elderly Damelie Maitre sat nursing her broken arm.

On the road from the capital, now partly blocked in fallen boulders from the hills running up from the blue Caribbean waters, refugees are sleeping under plastic sheeting amid banana groves and green fields of corn.

For every peasant shack and waterfront snack bar destroyed, there is an imposing villa or ambitious commercial venture in ruins. The town itself has broad avenues and spacious squares, now festooned with fallen power lines.

“What can we say about the future? Nothing. We can say nothing. We are reduced to nothing,” declared 35-year-old IT worker Pierre Desrosiers.

Security Council to meet

The Mexican foreign ministry announced on Saturday that the UN security COuncil will meet to discuss the aid relief effort.

Mexico, a non-permanent member of the 15-member body, launched the initiative and the decision to discuss the matter early Monday was made in coordination with Security Council president China, it said.

“The Mexican government believes it is of the utmost importance that the UN Security Council contributes to aid efforts and supports the Haitian government,” the ministry said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will tour Haiti on Sunday to witness the destruction for himself, was expected to participate in the meeting.

UN mourns death of senior official

Earlier, the UN also announced the discovery of the body of a senior member of staff. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply saddened” to confirm the deaths of his Special Representative to Haiti, Hédi Annabi, as well as his Deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“In every sense of the word, they gave their lives for peace,” he said.

More looting in Port au Prince

In the capital, exhausted police fired in the air to scare off armed looters pillaging shops Saturday in the quake-ravaged Haitian capital, but to little effect. Only seconds later the desperate mob was back.

The uniformed police – one of the rare signs that the Haitian government has not collapsed – are under orders not to open fire on the hungry, angry crowds frantic to find food and water in the rubble of Port-au-Prince.

But their shots fired in the air did nothing to dissuade the looters, combing the wreckage of shops, public offices and houses destroyed in the Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude quake.