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January 13, 2010

Governments and aid agencies are rushing to help the people of Haiti.

Governments and aid agencies around the world are organizing supplies for Haiti, while aid workers in Port-au-Prince, scramble to set up makeshift clinics beside the rubble that just one day ago had been their hospitals.

Doctors Without Borders were mobbed by people with severe traumas and crushed limbs, and by people begging for help in rescuing trapped relatives. Most of the medical centers in Port-au-Prince have collapsed. Electricity and communication lines are down, so it is difficult to assess the damage and locate lost aid workers.

Many international relief agencies have had large presences in Haiti since a series of hurricanes in 2008 caused drastic levels of flooding, mudslides and devastation. They were struggling now to get people and supplies into the country and then distribute them. The survivors are trying to dig buried people out from the rubble. The wounded and the dead fill the streets.

The Pentagon is sending an aircraft carrier to Haiti. It is expected to arrive by Friday and it will serve as an offshore staging area for helicopters and air support for the island. The Pentagon also ordered a hospital ship but officials said it was still assembling a crew and had not yet sailed. The United States Coast Guard dispatched four cutters, some equipped with helicopters, early Wednesday morning and had helicopters there helping with surveillance. More Coast Guard helicopters and aircraft were sent from the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. China has sent a plane with relief workers and supplies.

France said it would send three military transport planes, including one from nearby Fort de France, Martinique, with aid supplies, and that 100 troops based in the French West Indies would be sent to help. Britain said it would send an assessment team as soon as snow could be cleared from a runway at an Airport near London. Germany, too, is sending an assessment team, and said it would make 1.5 million euros, or about $2.2 million, available for emergency assistance.

About 800 people from Doctors Without Borders, were already in Haiti when the quake struck. They treated more than 600 patients in various locations for fractures and other injuries and for burns, many of them caused by domestic cooking-gas containers that exploded as buildings collapsed. But even as Doctors Without Borders tried to mobilize staff and supplies, they could not get very far, roads that were not strewn by rubble were made impassible during the night by people sleeping or lying wounded there.

Partners in Health, working with medical centers throughout Haiti, said it was trying to send supplies to the capital from its nine medical centers in the Central Plateau of Haiti, about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince, which were not damaged in the quake. "We have to make sure that when we do bring aid in, we have a system that we can use effectively," said Andrew Marx, a spokesman for the organization. "The important thing is getting what we already have in country to the place that it's needed - there has to be a 'there' there."

The World Food Program -www.wfp.org/haiti is airlifting additional food supplies from its emergency hub in El Salvador, which will provide more than half a million emergency meals.

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