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Logistical hurdles complicate aid effort in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Pushed to the far edge of desperation, earthquake-ravaged Haitians dumped decaying bodies into mass graves and begged for water and food Friday amid fear that time is running out to avoid chaos and to rescue anyone still alive in the wreckage.

The U.S. military brought some relief, taking control of the airport, helping coordinate flights bringing in aid and evacuating foreigners and the injured. Medical teams, meanwhile, set up makeshift hospitals, workers started to clear the streets of corpses and water was being distributed in pockets of the city.

But the task was enormous.

Aid workers and authorities warned that unless they can quickly get aid to the people, Port-au-Prince will degenerate into lawlessness.

There were reports of isolated looting as young men walked through downtown with machetes. Survivors also fought each other for food pulled from the debris. "I'm getting the sense that if the situation doesn't get sorted [out] real soon, it will devolve into chaos," said Steve Matthews, a veteran relief worker with the Christian aid organization World Vision.

Time also was running out to rescue anyone who may still be trapped alive in the many buildings in Port-au-Prince that collapsed in Tuesday's magnitude-7.0 quake. "Beyond three or four days without water, they'll be pretty ill," said Dr. Michael VanRooyen of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in Boston.

An Australian TV crew pulled a healthy 16-month-old girl from the wreckage of her house Friday - about 68 hours after the earthquake struck.

Although her parents were dead, Winnie Tilin survived with only scratches and soon was in the arms of her uncle, whose pregnant wife also was killed. "I have to consider her like my baby because mine is passed," Frantz Tilin told The Associated Press.

As temperatures rose into the high 80s, the sickly smell of the dead lingered over Port-au-Prince, where countless bodies remained unclaimed in the streets. Hundreds of bloated corpses were stacked outside the city morgue, and limbs of the dead protruded from crushed schools and homes.

At a cemetery outside the city, trucks dumped bodies by the dozens into a mass grave. Elsewhere, people pulled a box with bodies along a road, then used a front-loader to lift the box and tip it into a large metal trash bin. South of the capital, workers burned more than 2,000 bodies in a trash dump.

The effort to get aid to the victims has been stymied by blocked roads, congestion at the airport, limited equipment and other obstacles. UN peacekeepers patrolling the capital said popular anger was rising, warning aid convoys to add security to guard against looting.

"People who have not been eating or drinking for almost 50 hours and are already in a very poor situation - if they see a truck . . . a supermarket which has collapsed, they just rush to get something to eat," UN humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva.

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