United States troops arrived in Port-au-Prince last night to handle security at the struggling airport there, and manage distribution of aid cargo. More are expected to arrive today, amid growing chaos, worsening health conditions, and starvation in the aftermath of Tuesday’s devastating earthquake. Bodies have been used by desperate residents to set up roadblocks throughout the crumbled capital city, contaminated water is causing concern for the rapid spread of disease and malaria, and looters even broke into United Nations food warehouses.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that with the presidential palace crumbled and infrastructure hanging by a thread, nobody appears to be taking charge domestically of rescue and aid efforts. As residents claw apart buildings with their bare hands trying to rescue loved ones, government officials are scant to be found, and the already weak president, René Préval, appears unable to help. “The sad truth is that no one is in charge of Haiti today,” says Latin America expert Dan Erikson of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. “This vacuum, coupled with the robust response from the Obama administration, has inevitably created a situation where the U.S. will be the de facto decision-maker in Haiti.” Even so, though, most international aid efforts have yet to effectively penetrate the disaster area because of infrastructure and communication collapses.