Haiti earthquake toll rises as gangs hamper aid efforts

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Port-au-Prince (AFP)

The death toll in the major earthquake that struck Haiti on August 14 rose to 2,207, authorities said on Sunday, as attacks on aid convoys complicated efforts to rescue survivors.

“New bodies have been found in the south,” said a statement from the country’s civil protection office, adding that 344 people are still missing and 12,268 have been listed as injured. The previously reported death toll was 2,189.

Search and rescue officers continue to search the mounds of debris left by the powerful 7.2-magnitude quake, but hopes of finding survivors have faded hour by hour.

Haitian authorities said nearly 600,000 people were directly affected by the disaster and are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

But efforts to deliver food, water and medical supplies to quake victims have been complicated not only by damage to roads and bridges, but also attacks on aid convoys by gangs. not identified so far.

“We have an increasingly serious security problem,” said Jerry Chandler, director of Haiti’s civil protection agency.

Since early June, a two-kilometer (1.2 mile) stretch of highway from Port-au-Prince to the southwestern peninsula has been dangerous, due to persistent gang violence in a desperately poor area of ​​the capital. .

“We are literally facing a problem with banditry, and we are working very hard with the police, who are sending reinforcements south,” Chandler said.

Some of the worst destruction took place in hard-to-reach rural areas, so Haitian authorities used a United Nations helicopter and eight American planes to deliver aid.

Delivery of aid to Cayes, Haiti’s third hardest-hit city, was organized largely by private groups or inexperienced individuals, and fighting erupted among those awaiting aid.

“We don’t want to discourage the Good Samaritans,” Chandler said, but he urged people to contact his office so he can help organize the most efficient delivery of aid to those who have it most. need.

Meanwhile, Brazil has joined the aid efforts by sending a KC-390 military cargo plane carrying a team of 23 firefighters and 10 tons of medical and emergency supplies to Haiti.

“Solidarity is a hallmark of the Brazilian people,” President Jair Bolsonaro said when announcing the theft.


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