efforts to scramble aid relief to Haiti have been stymied by
transportation bottlenecks and the near-total collapse of local
government in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the
Caribbean nation's capital on Tuesday night.OC
Home Front Command Brig.-Gen. Shalom Ben-Aryeh, head of the delegation,
said there was hope that the search-and-rescue teams would still
succeed in rescuing people trapped beneath the rubble. He said that the
pictures from Haiti were reminiscent of the last rescue mission Israel
launched to India in 2002.
The death toll was
estimated on Thursday at between 40,000 and 50,000 by the international
Red Cross, though the real number remains unknown.
rushing rescue forces to the poverty-stricken nation. Two El Al planes
took off from Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night carrying a
121-member delegation that includes 40 doctors, five search-and-rescue
teams, and a K9 rescue squad from the army's Oketz unit. The IDF
medical teams are preparing to spend two weeks in Haiti and to see an
average of 500 patients a day, Chief IDF Medical Corps Officer
Brig.-Gen. Nahman Ash said on Thursday.
Amos Radian, Israel's ambassador to
the neighboring Dominican Republic, arrived in Port-au-Prince on
Wednesday and began sending reports back to the Foreign Ministry in
Jerusalem. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post following a five-hour hike across the decimated capital, he related horrors "the likes of which I have never seen in my life."
is a strange quiet in the streets," he said. "Thousands of people are
sitting in the middle of the street afraid to enter the buildings. The
city is destroyed. You see corpses lying alongside every street corner.
People are wandering aimlessly. It's a very difficult sight, and nobody
is there to help. I passed a poor residential area, and you could see
that the entire mountainside turned into an avalanche and every last
home was destroyed," he related.
Passing the collapsed remains
of the Montana Hotel, Radian spoke to an American rescue worker who
said there was a US diplomat trapped under the rubble who had survived
the quake and was sending SMS messages to his family in the United
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While the rubble stretched for as far as he could see,
"I didn't notice a single ambulance or rescue crew in many hours of
walking. Going by what I saw in the city, people will be trapped under
those ruins for many days."
There are sites, the ambassador said, "that the rescue forces will probably never reach."
The situation was worsened by the complete collapse of the country's communications system.
of people have been left with no communications. I myself have been
working with a satellite phone I borrowed from a friend in the
Dominican Republic that I brought with me," he said.
Worse, the earthquake seems to have also led to the near-total collapse of government.
is no water, no food, no fuel, and no central government to bring
order. The entire law enforcement system has collapsed. Hospitals are
in ruins. There is complete anarchy. We don't know who's running the
country. Local government is nonexistent."
The United States has
stepped into this vacuum, Radian explained, establishing a field
control tower at Port-au-Prince airport in place of the one destroyed
in the quake, and shipping in thousands of troops and millions of
dollars to begin the painful process of restoring order and rescuing
those buried under the rubble.
As many as 5,500 American
infantry soldiers and Marines will be on the ground or on ships
offshore by Monday, a US Defense Department official said. More than a
half dozen ships were heading there on Thursday or preparing to get
under way, said spokesman Bryan Whitman. They included the aircraft
carrier USS Carl Vinson, to arrive on Friday, and a hospital ship with 12 operating rooms, the USNS Comfort, expected by January 22.
first US Army troops from the 82nd Airborne Division were expected to
arrive late on Thursday. About 100 troops will find locations to set up
tents and make other preparations for the arrival of roughly 800
personnel from the division on Friday and a full brigade of some 3,500
by the end of the weekend, Whitman said.
They come on top of some 2,200 Marines, also to arrive by Sunday or Monday.
of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it a major effort to provide
security, search and rescue, and delivery of humanitarian supplies.
officials said deployment was slowed by badly damaged roads, airport,
port and communications. President Barack Obama, who promised that
"more help is on the way," also warned it would take hours "and in many
cases days" to get the full US contingent on the ground. "You will not
be forsaken," Obama pledged. "In this, the hour of your greatest need,
America stands with you. The world stands with you."
States is providing a lot of the glue that is keeping people
communicating and working together as we try to assert authority,
reinstate the government and begin to do what governments have to do to
rebuild and reconstruct this damaged country," Clinton said in an
interview on Fox News.
And P.J. Crowley, her spokesman, stressed
that while US troops sent to Haiti will be under US command, they are
there primarily to support the United Nations' 9,000-member
peacekeeping mission and to do what it is asked by the Haitians.
not taking over Haiti," he said. "We are helping to stabilize Haiti,
we're helping to provide them lifesaving support and materiel and we're
going to be there over the long-term to help Haiti rebuild."
assume that in the first stage we will deal with trauma patients," said
the IDF's Brig.-Gen. Ash, "and then the next round will be people
suffering from infections and secondary illnesses."
The field hospital, he added, would have surgery rooms, and several beds in an Intensive Care Unit.
planes will land on Friday and the field hospital will likely begin
operations on Saturday. A security detail of combat troops is also
being sent to provide security for the Israeli delegation.
of the delegation received vaccinations on Thursday to prepare them for
the country's poor medical infrastructure, Ash said.
have experience that after several days it is still possible to rescue
people," said Ben-Aryeh, adding that one of the first missions once the
teams arrived would be to search for an Israeli woman who is still
A police forensics unit is also set to depart for Haiti on Friday morning to assist in the identification of casualties.
team will be led by Ch.-Insp. Dr. Zipi Kahana, a forensics expert, as
well as fingerprints expert FSM Ze'ev Segel, and other experts.
The team will be equipped with tools to allow for a comparison of teeth and fingerprint samples taken from bodies.
According to the Israeli branch of UNICEF, some 46 percent of Haiti's population of 10 million are younger than 18.
special needs of children for food, shelter and protection have to be
the top concern of the aid efforts," the organization said in a
statement on Thursday.
UNICEF Israel, together with other Israeli and Diaspora Jewish groups, is calling for urgent funds to help rescue efforts.
understand that the most urgent need right now is to restore
infrastructure related to health," said Shachar Zahavi of IsraAID, an
Israeli coalition of humanitarian and rescue groups that is sending a
15-member team of doctors, nurses, paramedics and logistics experts to
help the international aid efforts.
"During the earthquake, the
water infrastructure broke and spilled into the sewage system. The
crisis here is not just about the wounded, but about the coming
diseases," he said.
The IsraAID team will report back on the specific needs of the country.
don't have huge budgets, so we're not going to be financing hundreds of
tons of food, or send fleets of ships to the country. We need to focus
on things where Israel can offer its special expertise. In the fields
of emergency medicine, search-and-rescue, post-trauma counseling and
water purification are uniquely advanced in Israel. We're also talking
to some hi-tech companies with expertise in restoring collapsed
IsraAID's work is being funded by a
coalition of North American Jewish groups, including the Jewish
Federation of Toronto, the American Jewish Committee and B'nai B'rith
Other groups, such as the American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee and the American Jewish World Service, are
sending money and assistance through the International Red Cross and
other aid agencies.
Meanwhile, Radian is charged with
coordinating the Israeli efforts in Port-au-Prince. The international
aid effort, though unprecedented in proportions, has been a "drop in
the ocean," he said.
Meeting Haiti's president, Rene Preval, he
reported that "this was a deeply shaken man. He got out of the
collapsing National Palace by the skin of his teeth. He didn't seem the
same strong, humorous man I'd known in the past."
speaking to is saying that Haiti was already a place mistreated by fate
that was barely holding its head above water. It will take more than
days or even months to recover from this disaster."
Yaakov Katz, Yaakov Lappin and AP contributed to this report.
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