Haitians to mourn Catholic leader killed in quake


  • World
  • Saturday, 23 Jan 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - After more than a week of searching for trapped survivors, Haiti prepared on Saturday to mourn its dead amid signs that daily life in the earthquake-shattered country is beginning to resume.

A large crowd is expected for the funeral of Catholic Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, who died in the Jan. 12 quake that destroyed the city. It will be held outside the ruins of the Notre Dame cathedral in this largely Catholic country.

"As an archbishop, he has the privilege of being laid to rest in the cathedral, but since the cathedral was destroyed, he will only be able to be transferred there once a new one is built, and we don't know when that will happen," Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the pope's ambassador to Haiti, told the Catholic News Agency.

Amid the grief, there are indications the poor Caribbean country is coming back to life. Banks were scheduled to reopen on Saturday and money transfer agencies did brisk business after opening on Friday.

"I want to get some cash sent by my family from Canada. It's $500 but it's difficult. There are so many people," said businessman Aslyn Denis, 31, waiting in a line with hundreds of people, some of them jostling each other, outside a Unitransfer office.

A large supermarket, Big Star Market, reopened in the Petionville suburb on Friday, selling everything from slabs of ham and goat meat to Valentine's Day chocolates. But the store manager said they had only a week or two of stocks left and had received no deliveries.

Although aid from around the world has been pouring into the wrecked city in a huge U.S.-led relief operation, quake survivors camped out in the rubble-strewn streets still complained bitterly that they were not receiving food.

"We are hungry, we are thirsty, we can't stand it anymore. We want food, we want water. Down with Preval. Long live Obama," shouted a group of protesters outside the police station where President Rene Preval's government is operating.

Police pushed back the few dozen protesters.

Preval, whose own presidential palace and home collapsed in the quake that killed up to 200,000 people, said his government and international partners were doing everything possible to get assistance to the hundreds of thousands of needy survivors.

"We are not sitting idle doing nothing. I know the scale of the problem and how people are suffering," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has sent in a large military task force to spearhead the international relief efforts.

TELETHON

Dozens of celebrities raised money in the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon which appeared on major U.S. networks and cable channels on Friday night. The benefit was organized by actor George Clooney and included performances by Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean, Bruce Springsteen, U2 frontman Bono and Madonna.

With time running out on finding trapped survivors, rescuers on Friday pulled two people barely alive from collapsed buildings in Port-au-Prince.

An 84-year-old woman was rescued from under a wrecked building and evacuated by boat by the U.S. Army, the doctor who treated her said.

"They pulled her out early this morning. She was barely responding, she had wounds all over her body, and maggots," said Dr Vladimir Larouche, a Haitian-American doctor from New York, working at Port-au-Prince General Hospital.

Elsewhere in the shattered capital, an Israeli rescue team freed a 22-year-old man from the rubble.

Up to 1.5 million Haitians lost their homes in the earthquake.

Relief agencies estimated one-third of Haiti's 9 million people would need emergency food, water and shelter for an extended period.

"We can do this 24 hours a day for the next six months and we still won't meet the need," said First Sergeant Rob Farnsworth, part of a U.S. Army airborne unit handing out food packs at a squalid camp where survivors lived in the open air.

U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE

Edmond Mulet, acting head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said coordination in delivering aid was getting better every day. But Henriette Chamouillet, the World Health Organization representative in Haiti, said it remained a problem.

She said the Haitian prime minister complained at a meeting with aid workers that only 10 percent of the population in makeshift camps had received any food aid while some camps had received three times the amount of food they needed.

Nearly 1,000 hungry people swarmed a U.S. military truck as an 82nd Airborne company known as "the Beast" handed out food and water at an encampment on a soccer field. Overwhelmed, the troops pulled out after distributing 600 packaged meals, leaving 250 food packs still on the truck.

U.S. Navy helicopters ferried in boxes of water to distribute to Haitians lined up at a sprawling survivors' camp that covered a golf course. Actor Sean Penn stopped by to deliver antibiotics, painkillers and water filters. "The whole city has collapsed," he said.

U.S. troops were giving away 50,000 solar- and crank-powered radios to help displaced Haitians receive announcements telling them where aid was available.

More than 13,000 U.S. military personnel are in Haiti and on ships offshore, flying in supplies, evacuating the seriously wounded and protecting aid distribution points. The United Nations is adding 2,000 troops and 1,500 police to its 9,000-member peacekeeping mission.

More than $1.2 billion has been pledged to help rebuild roads, government buildings and homes, but the World Bank said much more would be needed to get Haiti on its feet.

"My anticipation is that $1.2 billion is just the floor," the bank's director for the Caribbean, Yvonne Tsikata, told France 24 television.

The Inter-American Development Bank said it was considering granting debt relief for the $441 million Haiti owes the bank.

The International Monetary Fund urged donors gathering in Montreal on Sunday to adopt a Marshall Plan for Haiti, similar to the U.S. effort that helped rebuild Europe after World War Two.

(Additional reporting by Catherine Bremer, Adam Entous, Joseph Guyler Delva and Natuza Nery in Port-au-Prince and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; writing by Eric Beech; editing by Mohammad Zargham)


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