Pepper Spray Fired on Hungry Haitians
Chaotic scramble as UN peacekeepers fire pepper spray on thousands of hungry Haitians waiting for food
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 1:14 AM on 27th January 2010
Thousands of hungry Haitians spilled into the streets defeating barbed wire and a tiny contingent of blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers distributing food.
The chaotic scene unfolded outside the wrecked presidential palace in Port-au-Prince where aid agencies struggled to control 4000-strong mass of desperate Haitians, two weeks after the devastating earthquake struck.
Security forces fired pepper spray into the air in an effort to disperse the thousands of men, women and children jostling for food.
Jostle: UN peacekeepers struggle to control the thousands of desperately hungry Haitians outside the wrecked presidential palace in Port-au-Prince
As the overwhelmed soldiers finally retreated, people rushed forward to grab sacks of pinto beans and rice, emblazoned with the U.S. flag.
A vomiting pregnant woman, still gesturing at her mouth to show hunger, was carried off by UN troops after collapsing out of the crush of bodies.
Soldiers had done their best to prepare for the crowds. They erected barbed wire, cutting off the street from the sprawling tent city.
Troops then ordered people to line up in four queues, 20 yards form where the food was to be dumped.
Arms up: Haitians push forward despite security forces firing warning shots
Vain attempt: One peacekeeper (far right) can be seen using pepper spray to try and keep crowds under control
Two trucks were parked between the people and food, while a UN armoured car was on guard to the side.
But even the peacekeepers armed with batons and riot shields could not hold back the agitated crowds.
Every time a soldier fired a warning shot the crowds jumped back just for a moment, and then pushed forward again screaming.
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The episode came two days after similar scenes in the Point Rouge area, when Brazilian U.N. peacekeepers were forced to fire flash grenades and pepper spray to dissipate an unruly crowd.
‘Due to insufficient strength of military personnel providing security in the site of the distribution, the population tried to loot, putting the lives of the military personnel and the (World Food Program) members in danger,’ according to an internal Brazilian UN report.
Surging crowds: A young man’s eyes light up as he sees dozens of sacks of rice and pinto beans
Retreating: Thousands of people were left without food after the chaotic scramble
With thousands left without food after the melee, president Rene Preval called for more tents for the homeless who are spread across empty lots, parks and plazas in the hundreds of thousands.
In the surrounding Champs de Mars plaza, Haitians were living out in the open, many with nothing more than a plastic sheet to protect them from sun and rain.
‘We live like dogs,’ said Espiegle Amilcar, 34. ‘We’re sleeping, eating and going to the bathroom in the same place.’
The global agency supplying tents said it already had 10,000 stored in Haiti and at least 30,000 more would be arriving.
Going without: Children hold up placards demanding help in Leogane, one of the towns worst hit by the earthquake
But the International Organization for Migration said: ‘The supply is unlikely to address the extensive shelter needs.’
Meanwhile as Haiti’s mobile phone system began working again, thousands of voicemails and texts from people trapped in the ruins were heard and seen for the first time.
Survivor Rene Emile, 32, cried when she read the text from her husband Peter who was on training course in the capital when the building he was in collapsed.
He wrote: ‘Send help, we are still alive. May the Lord bless you and keep you, his face shines upon you. I love you.’
Mrs Emile told the The Sun: ‘This is all I have left of my husband. Some words on a cellphone screen. This is all there is and it arrived too late.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1246105/Haiti-earthquake-Chaotic-scramble-thousands-hungry-Haitians-overrun-peacekeepers-delivering-food.html#ixzz0dwyBThJs