WASHINGTON — Some incidents of violence in Haiti have hindered rescue workers trying to help earthquake victims, a top official leading the U.S. government’s relief efforts said today.
Providing humanitarian aid requires a safe and secure environment, said Lt. Gen. Ken Keen of the U.S. Southern Command. While streets have been largely calm, he said, violence has been increasing.
“We are going to have to address the situation of security,” Keen said. “We’ve had incidents of violence that impede our ability to support the government of Haiti and answer the challenges that this country faces.”
Keen said about 1,000 U.S. troops are in Haiti and that 3,000 more are working from ships. More than 12,000 U.S. forces are expected to be in the region by Monday.
Fear of looters and robbers has been one of the factors slowing the delivery of aid. After Tuesday’s earthquake, maintaining law and order fell to the 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers and international police already in Haiti even though those forces also sustained heavy losses in the disaster.
Keen said U.S. forces are working with U.N. peacekeepers and that local police are beginning to assist in providing security.
Rescue efforts and getting food, water and medical supplies to earthquake victims were the focus of efforts today, U.S. officials said. An estimated 100,000 or more people may have died in the magnitude-7.0 quake.
As of today, the State Department said the total number of confirmed U.S. death was 16, including one embassy worker.
Rajiv Shah, who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, said U.S. relief workers are also trying to rescue people from under the damaged and destroyed buildings.