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World News

January 14, 2010

Aid workers in Haiti face 'logistical nightmare'

GENEVA (AP) — Roads full of hungry, homeless people. An estimated 50,000 dead. A ruined port and an overwhelmed airport. Hundreds of crumpled buildings and little heavy machinery. Few working phones.

Relief supplies and emergency experts started pouring into Haiti from around the world Thursday, but aid groups said the challenge of helping Haiti's desperate quake survivors was enormous.

"It's chaos," U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told The Associated Press. "It's a logistical nightmare."

Aid deliveries by ship were impossible to Port-au-Prince because the Haitian capital's port was closed due to severe damage from Tuesday's magnitude-7 earthquake. The city's airport was open but damaged, laboring mightily to handle a flurry of incoming aid flights.

An estimated 45,000-50,000 were killed, based on government figures and a wide network of Haitian volunteers across the hard-hit capital Port-au-Prince, said Red Cross federation spokesman Jean-Luc Martinage.

Fearful of going near quake-damaged buildings, Haitians stood or rested on the roads, slowing the transport of food and other crucial aid.

Coordinating deliveries was also a problem, which is being tackled by U.N. and U.S. officials, Byrs said.

With the U.N. peacekeeping force in tatters, representatives of aid organizations say there does not appear to be anyone coordinating distribution of relief supplies at the airport in Port-au-Prince.

"It is difficult because folks at the Port-au-Prince airport are trying to get up to speed to run logistics," said Save the Children spokeswoman Kate Conradt from Haiti.

"Donations are coming in to the airport here, but some are coming without notice from very well-meaning groups," she said. "There is not yet a system to get it in."

Severe damage to at least eight Port-au-Prince hospitals made it nearly impossible to treat the thousands of injured or prevent outbreaks of disease, said Paul Garwood, spokesman for the World Health Organization.

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