Man rescued from rubble 14 days after Haiti quake

9:14am EST

By Patrick Markey and Patricia Zengerle

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – U.S. troops pulled a man alive from under a collapsed building in Haiti’s capital on Tuesday as U.N. troops sprayed tear gas at survivors desperate for food two weeks after a catastrophic earthquake.

The man, covered in dust and dressed only in underpants, was rescued by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division from a ruined house on Rue de Miracle in downtown Port-au-Prince, a Reuters witness reported.

U.S. authorities identified him as 31 years old and said he had a broken leg and was severely dehydrated.

More than 130 people have been pulled out alive from under wrecked buildings by rescue teams from around the world, although hopes of finding more survivors are fading daily.

The latest rescue, exactly 14 days after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake killed as many as 200,000 people, came as the U.S.-led relief effort was focused on getting help to hundreds of thousands of survivors left homeless, hungry and injured.

Brazilian U.N. peacekeeping troops sprayed tear gas at a frantic crowd of thousands crowding a food handout outside the wrecked presidential palace earlier on Tuesday.

“They’re not violent, just desperate. They just want to eat,” Brazilian army Colonel Fernando Soares said. “The problem is, there is not enough food for everyone.”

U.S. troops, U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers have widened the distribution of food and water, but many in the poor Caribbean country are still not receiving emergency aid.

Some of the food handouts in the capital have turned unruly, although the United Nations said the overall security situation in Port-au-Prince was stable and that about two-thirds of Haiti’s police force had returned to work.

At the presidential palace on Tuesday, U.N. troops with shotguns protected relief workers handing out sacks of rice with U.S. flags on them. Armored trucks formed a cordon to control the crowd and people were searched as they entered the checkpoint near a makeshift camp.

“Yesterday they gave us rice, but there was not enough. There were too many people,” said Wola Levolise, 47, who is living in the camp with her nine children.

The World Food Program said it handed out 60 tonnes of food but ended the distribution when the crowd got out of control.

“There are isolated, regrettable incidents but these are the exceptions and not the rule,” a WFP spokesman said.

The U.N. agency said it had delivered nearly 10 million meals to almost 450,000 people since the quake.

Lewis Lucke, the retired U.S. ambassador coordinating the relief effort, said aid was moving as fast as possible given the chaotic conditions.

“This is really a disaster of biblical proportions,” he told Reuters.

JOBS, AID AND AFTERSHOCKS

In a bid to get the economy going, the United Nations is offering 150 gourdes ($3.77) a day plus food rations to those willing to take jobs clearing rubble from roads and removing waste that posed a potential health threat.

More than 5,500 Haitians had already started the two-week jobs, loading debris on trucks and hauling it to landfills.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive returned from an international donors meeting in Montreal, where he had made an impassioned plea for sustained long-term aid.

“I went to Canada to tell the donor community that the period of emergency will last months and months,” Bellerive said. “It will take us four to five years before we can reach the situation we were on January 11.”

Bellerive also said there had been 45 aftershocks. Another one, magnitude 4.9, struck western Haiti later on Tuesday.

In Washington, the U.S. space agency, NASA, said it would send surveillance flights over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, to look for signs that more earthquakes may hit the area.

The U.S. military said it could scale back its involvement within six months as other international organizations assume larger roles providing security and disaster relief. It does, plan to help build a 5,000-bed hospital to provide longer-term care to quake victims.

The United States has dispatched more than 15,000 military personnel to Haiti, with about 4,700 are deployed on the ground.

There were signs the ruined capital was slowly returning to life. A city garbage truck hauled away piles of rubbish at a makeshift camp and a long line snaked outside a bank. A street market along Rue Geffrard was crowded and chaotic.

The capital’s destroyed downtown commercial area, however, had few open shops. Scavengers picked at smashed buildings for planks of lumber, steel bars and other building materials.

The Haitian government says about 1 million Haitians were displaced from their homes in the capital. It had tents for 400,000 to be used in temporary tent villages to be built outside the city, but said 200,000 more would be needed.

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