Toothpaste, rum looted as Bill Clinton visits Haiti

Looters take rolls of fabric from a store

Looters take rolls of fabric from a store in downtown Port-au-Prince, six days after an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the open-ended Richter scale hit the Haitian capital. Photo Credit: Getty Images

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WASHINGTON - Troops, doctors and aid workers flowed into Haiti on Monday even while victims of the quake that killed an estimated 200,000 people still struggled to find a cup of water or a handful of food.

Former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, arrived around midday Monday, shaking hands with U.S. troops before heading into a building at the end of the runway that houses commanders of the Joint Task Force-Haiti. Clinton is the U.N. special envoy for Haiti and he has joined former President George W. Bush in leading a campaign for donations to help the country.

European nations pledged more than a half-billion dollars in emergency and long-term aid, on top of at least $100 million promised earlier by the U.S.

But help was still not reaching many victims of Tuesday’s quake — choked back by transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys, the collapse of local authority and the sheer scale of the need.

Looting spread to more parts of downtown Port-au-Prince as hundreds of young men and boys clambered up broken walls to break into shops and take whatever they can find. Especially prized was toothpaste, which people smear under their noses to fend off the stench of decaying bodies.

At one place, youths fought over a stock of rum with broken bottles, machetes and razors and police fired shots into the air to break up the crowd.

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“I am drinking as much as I can. It gives courage,” said Jean-Pierre Junior, wielding a broken wooden plank with nails to protect his bottle of rum.

Even so, the U.S. Army’s on-the-ground commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, said the city is seeing less violence than before the earthquake. “Is there gang violence? Yes. Was there gang violence before the earthquake? Absolutely.“’

Keen said some 2,000 Marines were set to join 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Monday he wants 1,500 more U.N. police and 2,000 more troops to join the existing 7,000 military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police in Haiti.

While aid workers tried to make their way into Haiti, many people tried to leave. Hundreds of U.S. citizens, or people claiming to be, waved IDs as they formed a long line outside the U.S. Embassy in hopes of arranging a flight out of the country.

Roughly 200,000 people may have been killed in the magnitude-7.0 quake, the European Union said, quoting Haitian officials who also said about 70,000 bodies have been recovered so far.


EU officials estimated that about 250,000 were injured and 1.5 million were homeless.

Even many people whose houses survived are living outside for fear unstable buildings could collapse in aftershocks.

So many people have lost homes that the World Food Program is planning a tent camp for 100,000 people — an instant city the size of Burbank, California — on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, according to the agency’s country director, Myrta Kaulard.

On the streets, people were still dying, pregnant women were giving birth and the injured were showing up in wheelbarrows and on people’s backs at hurriedly erected field hospitals.