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World News

January 15, 2010

UN: Looters break into UN warehouses in Haiti

GENEVA (AP) — Looters have broken into U.N. food warehouses in Haiti's crumbled capital, an official said Friday, as security and logistical challenges mounted for groups trying to feed at least 2 million people reeling from a devastating earthquake.

The U.N. World Food Program had 15,000 tons of food aid in Haiti prior to Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, stocks designed for hurricane relief. Spokeswoman Emilia Casella said local partners reported that the U.N. warehouse in Port-au-Prince's Cite Soleil neighborhood was looted but the agency did not know how much aid was stolen or exactly when it was taken.

She did not give details of the other looted warehouses, but said much of the agency's food stocks were located outside the capital.

Casella noted that regular food stores in the capital also "have been cleaned out" by desperate Haitians since the quake killed thousands and left countless more buried under the rubble.

Distributing food and clean water to hungry and thirsty quake survivors is the top challenge of the early relief effort. Looting, bad roads, a ruined port, an overwhelmed Port-au-Prince airport and fears of violence meant most Haitians have received no help three days after the quake.

The U.N. was planning to ask governments later Friday for $550 million in humanitarian pledges for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

"The physical destruction is so great that physically getting from point A to B with the supplies is not an easy task," Casella told a news conference. "Pictures can get out instantly ... and that's important because the world needs to know. But getting physically tons and tons of equipment and food and water is not as instant as Twitter or Skype or 24-hour television news."

The international community has already donated hundreds of millions of dollars and sent in the first of hundreds of doctors, engineers, soldiers and aid workers.

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