Looters prey upon quake-ravaged Haitian capital

Roving bands of looters on Monday overran Port-au-Prince, while police and military officials tasked with protecting the quake-stricken Haitian capital were nowhere to be found.

World leaders have promised to dispatch additional police, troops, marines and UN peacekeepers to the Haitian capital which has spiraled into chaos and despair after being leveled by a massive earthquake nearly a week ago.

But for now, the commercial heart of Haiti's shattered capital remains firmly in the hands of the thieves and vandals, who make off with whatever they can carry that has not been damaged beyond use.

Looters roamed from shop to shop, some clearly survivors scavenging for food and water as the unrest across the region was stoked by a delay in supplies reaching hundreds of thousands of people desperate for aid.

But others on the rampage in Port-au-Prince's shopping zone appeared to be simply marauders availing themselves of whatever items they might be able to use or sell at a later time.

The pillagers in downtown Port-au-Prince targeted a fabric store in relatively good condition and whose wares had not yet been despoiled.

A band of about 10 masked men managed to scale the rubble to gain access to the building's interior, where they made off with large bolts of fabric hoisted on their shoulders.

Widespread looting on Sunday led Haitian police to open fire on a crowd in the capital, killing at least one man who was shot in the head, as others ransacked a supermarket.

"Incidents of violence and looting are on the rise as the desperation grows," warned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Roaming gangs of looters steal anything they can find -- sneakers, fabric, music stereos -- everything is up for grabs.

International officials overseeing relief operations on Monday said they were painfully aware of the need for additional troops and police to get vital aid to the quake survivors -- and to restore a semblance of order as Haiti struggles to emerge from the worst catastrophe to befall the poor Caribbean nation.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon requested Monday 3,500 extra troops and police to boost his battered mission in quake-hit Haiti as the world body's death toll from the disaster rose to 46, with hundreds still unaccounted for.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the Security Council on his six-hour visit to the devastated Haitian capital Sunday, Ban said he had requested that the UN mission, known as MINUSTAH, be considerably beefed up.

Vital aid and a surge in US military personnel to Haiti brought Monday a drip of hope to despairing survivors still seeking basic supplies and security nearly a week after the killer quake.

Approximately 1,700 troops were already on the ground as part of the humanitarian response and in a bid to provide desperately needed security to back-up those efforts.

And food rations provided by the United Nations and humanitarian organizations slowly began to trickle out to Haiti's desperate recipients.

At Challe, a camp for 10,000 displaced Haitian people, supplies began to come to those in need, but one desperate father said the aid was not nearly enough to feed so many hungry people.

Meanwhile, more than 2,200 Marines were to arrive Monday aboard the amphibious ship USS Bataan, Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman from US Southern Command, said boosting troop numbers to 7,500 either in Haiti or offshore.

And Lieutenant-general Ken Keen, US commander of the joint task force in Haiti, told reporters Monday that there would be 10,000 US troops in the area in the next few weeks, providing hope that peace may be restored to Port-au-Prince in the foreseeable future.

They need "as many troops on the ground as (possible)," Keen said.

 

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