(Jan. 16) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton heads to Haiti today to meet the country's president and try to help speed the flow of food and medicine out of a clogged airport and into the arms of exhausted earthquake survivors.
"It's a race against time," Clinton said Friday. There's already been looting in the capital Port-au-Prince, with some reports of roving bands of young men with machetes. Fears are mounting that desperate survivors could turn to violence en masse if they don't get help soon.
"Where is the support?" one survivor asked CNN outside a United Nations food warehouse ravaged by hungry looters. The man was carrying a blood-stained box filled with human limbs he said were from the bodies of his wife and child.
Clean water is scarce since Tuesday's quake ripped apart a municipal pipeline in Port-au-Prince, and truckers are unable or unwilling to deliver what little bottled water is left. "Many drivers are afraid of being attacked if they go out. Some drivers are still missing in the disaster and others are out there searching for missing relatives," truck driver Dudu Jean told The Associated Press. He said he was attacked yesterday when he tried to drive into a Port-au-Prince slum.
President Barack Obama was meeting former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the White House "to discuss how to enlist and help the American people in this recovery effort." The three were expected to hold a news conference in the Rose Garden later today.
"We want the people of Haiti to know that we will do what it takes to save lives and to help them get back on their feet," Obama said Friday after speaking by phone with Haitian President Rene Preval.
Clinton said that during her trip to the country, she would remain at Port-au-Prince's airport base and wouldn't use up any resources or supplies meant for earthquake victims. Thousands of U.S. troops are already there coordinating the flow of aid, and some 10,000 in total are expected by Monday.
Grisly accounts continued to pour into social networking sites from survivors desperate for contact with the outside world. An American in Haiti wrote on Twitter: "Piles of cadavers were burned today. Only other option was to let them rot. I have soot on me. That soot contains human DNA. God help us."
Another described gas station attendants selling fuel for $20 a gallon.
The manager of a nursing college in Port-au-Prince told the BBC there were 260 bodies and 25 people still alive under the collapsed five-story building. Brazilian rescue workers were digging through the ruins after the school's principal received a text message from someone trapped inside.
Bodies remained strewn on Haiti's streets for a fourth straight day, in temperatures that topped 100 degrees. Residents smeared toothpaste under their nostrils to tamp the smell. "We have lost any dignity in death," Mezen Dieu Justi, an elderly man told Agence France-Presse as he watched flatbed trucks dump bodies at the gates of a Port-au-Prince cemetery.
Estimates on how many people have died as a result of Tuesday's quake were still preliminary, and survivors were still dying with each passing day. The Red Cross put the death toll between 45,000 and 50,000. Haiti's interior minister, Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, told Reuters 50,000 bodies have been collected already. "We anticipate there will be between 100,000 and 200,000 dead in total, although we will never know the exact number," he said.
Most of the victims would end up in mass graves, where burial teams would first take snapshots of bodies or snip pieces of clothing to show relatives later, Thomas Ewald, leader of a special U.S. rescue unit, told The Miami Herald. It's the same procedure used after the 2004 Asian tsunami. DNA sampling and medical records can't be used in Haiti, he said, because the country is so poor that many people have never received medical care and don't have a file.
Last night, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes issued a flash appeal for $562 million, which would fund aid for some three million Haitians for six months. "Almost half of that, as is usual in these situations, will be for food, emergency food aid. And there will be amounts of between $20 million and $50 million for health, water and sanitation, nutrition, emergency shelter, early recovery and agriculture," he told reporters.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said as many as half the buildings in Port-au-Prince's worst-hit areas are either damaged or destroyed. "A high proportion of the three million people in the capital area are without access to food, water, shelter and electricity. We are still in the search-and-rescue phase, and we are trying to save as many lives as possible," he told reporters in New York. Ban said he too planned to visit Haiti "very soon."