Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Endures Another Quake As Relief Efforts Continue

Earlier this morning, a 6.1 quake shook near the epicenter of the massive 7.0 quake that caused so much death and devastation across Haiti's capital region. There's no word on additional damage or deaths, but the ongoing toll from the 7.0 quake continues climbing.

The US announced that it would be sending more ships to the region, including a ship that can clear port debris with large cranes.  The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, will be arriving in Port au Prince this morning and will be able to start receiving patients within hours of arrival.
Military officials said troops and supplies were arriving as fast as possible despite daunting logistical hurdles. Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the deputy commander for military operations in Haiti, said the military has delivered more than 400,000 bottles of water and 300,000 food rations since last Tuesday's earthquake.

However, the colossal efforts to help Haiti are proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster and the limitations of the world's governments. Expectations exceeded what money, will and military might have been able to achieve so far in the face of unimaginable calamity.
Canada's contribution to relief efforts has topped $135 million.The UN has pledged more assistance to Haiti as well, and will send another 3,500 peacekeepers to the region:

All the while, the bodies keep piling up like cordwood in massive mounds outside the capital as overwhelmed Haitian authorities struggle to collect the remains of those killed in the quake. For those who survived, many are suffering from grievous injuries and medical workers have little choice but to amputate limbs to save lives; doctors are performing hundreds of amputations a day.

Countries from all over the world are participating in rescues and yet again, Israel comes in for yet another blood libel story. Some idiotic American from Seattle published a YouTube video claiming Israel is harvesting organs from the Haitians killed in the quake. Idiocy doesn't begin to cover this nonsense, but this guy has the anonymity of the Internet to hurl vile lies against an Israeli effort that includes dozens of rescuers and medical personnel who have saved countless lives with their efforts. He's repeating the bogus claims from past blood libels, and perpetuating the myths. All this does is breed fear and reluctance to seek out aid from the Israelis who have generously provided all kinds of medical and rescue assistance to the Haitians half a world away.

More than a week after the massive quake hit, the role of journalists in covering the story is itself becoming a story. Just what kind of role do we want these reporters to take - amid all the misery they see all manner of devastation and death, but should they not also try to save lives? Sanjay Gupta, a CNN correspondent stayed on at a Belgian medical facility even after the Belgian doctors were told to move to safer locations because of a threat of looting and rioting. He's a doctor and he saw it his obligation to help ease the suffering of those patients. Other journalists are simply spectators cataloging the disaster, but that doesn't mean that they can't reach out and help where they can.

Should the reporters in this piece just simply stand by taking video of a pregnant Haitian suffering in an attempt to make it to a hospital facility or should they have put down the cameras to help in a much more direct fashion? Anderson Cooper of CNN was seen carrying a boy to a medical facility. That would make them part of the story, but it would be the right thing to do.

There's an interesting story about how companies are busy trying to push solar power as a electricity generating solution in Haiti given the disruption to the power grid. One problem is explicitly shown in the accompanying photo - a man is using water to clean off the solar cells. In a nation where potable water is in severely short supply, that's water that is needed for human consumption, not merely to wash off solar cells to maximize power generation. Dust in the air due to the collapse and ongoing relief efforts means that solar cells already deployed aren't maximizing their collection capabilities, so regularly washing them down is necessary. It's a shortcoming that has to be overcome to make this a viable alternative in the short and long term, but multiple companies are deploying solar power solutions for communication, power generation, and even cooking.

More information on the crane ship that is expected to be deployed to Haiti. It's a T-ACS, which has multiple cranes to allow for port activities to be made where facilities are damaged or nonexistent. The ships are part of a ready reserve force, which it claims takes five days to activate. I'm curious why it took so long for the decision to be made to send the ship in, when it was apparent early on that the port facilities were wrecked. Ships of the T-ACS class are stationed in Norfolk or Newport News VA and on the Gulf Coast.

The USNS Comfort actually started accepting patients last night even before it anchored off-shore. A fact sheet on the Comfort's medical capabilities is here and the Navy is supplementing the medical staff with additional personnel to handle the crisis.

The USS Fort McHenry has teams on board to help bring equipment ashore where no port facilities exist.

And because the runway at Port au Prince has been overloaded with relief flights, the US Air Force is opening a new runway in Jacmel, 30 miles South of the capital.
The airfield will receive C-130 Hercules deliveries that initially will support Canadian humanitarian assistance efforts centered in the southern city about 30 miles southeast of the Haitian capital, a military official said.

"The first (additional) runway in Haiti proper will go into operation in the vicinity of Jacmel within the next 24 hours," Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the second in command of U.S. operations in Haiti, told Pentagon reporters Jan. 19.

Reports of bottlenecking at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince have emerged as the hub's capacity has grown from an average of 13 commercial aircraft arrivals daily before a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Jan. 12 to the present level of more than 200 flights.

As international support continues to flow into Haiti amid what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas, the U.S. military has looked outside the capital for areas to receive the additional provisions, equipment and personnel.

"We are obviously very conscious of the need to have multiple ports of entry," said General Allyn, adding that the U.S. military assessed the site at Jacmel (Jan. 18) during a helicopter delivery of food and supplies to the area.
The US House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would allow those who have made donations for Haiti disaster relief after January 11, 2010 and before March 1 as though they were made in the 2009 tax year. It accelerates the ability to claim the donation and a similar move was made following the 2004 Southeast Asian quake/tsunami. Text of the bill is here. Expect the Senate to pass it shortly and the President to sign it into law shortly thereafter.

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