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Groups speed up Haiti aid after strong aftershock

Relief agencies speeded up aid to hundreds of thousands of hungry and homeless Haitian quake survivors on Wednesday, saying they apparently escaped damage from the latest aftershock to hit the Caribbean nation.

world Updated: Jan 21, 2010 16:05 IST

Relief agencies speeded up aid to hundreds of thousands of hungry and homeless Haitian quake survivors on Wednesday, saying they apparently escaped damage from the latest aftershock to hit the Caribbean nation.

The U.N.'s main operations center in the capital was unharmed by the magnitude 6.1-tremblor that shook the city on Wednesday, U.N. spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said, and the U.N. food agency also reported no affects on operations.

But the Red Cross warned that Haitians struggling to survive after last week's devastating earthquake would surely be affected. "It's incredibly traumatic for the people who survived last week to have the ground kind of regularly shaking," Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said.

He said there appeared to be no new damage near the Port-au-Prince airport, but it was too early to say if the aftershock caused damage elsewhere.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, which says it has been carrying out 130 operations a day in different hospitals, said patients at Choscal Hospital in Port-au-Prince were so alarmed they had to be taken out of the building and put in tents outside.

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, said the operating theaters continued to work and the number of operations per day is increasing as new surgical teams start to work.

More than 400 Red Cross workers and thousands of national volunteers were scaling up aid distribution, Cochrane said. "It's getting closer and closer to business as usual," he told The Associated Press. "We're really scaling up in all our activities now."

Red Cross workers are distributing hygiene kits, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, ropes, mosquito nets, buckets and water purification tablets to about 300,000 people in the capital. And 500,000 liters of drinking water are being handed out every day by the Dominican Red Cross.

"They've been a huge ally partner for the Haitian Red Cross," said Cochrane.

Some of the injured who are outside the capital are now getting medical treatment from two mobile health care units, he said. The International Organization for Migration said it was trying to bring more plastic sheets, water containers and chemicals to purify water to 250,000 people in Port-au-Prince, but thousands more are in need of help.

Some 370,000 people are still sleeping in the open on blankets, sheets or under trees in disorganized camps across the city, the agency said. Very few have access to water.

"There are entire neighborhoods that are empty," said Vincent Houver, IOM chief in Haiti. "The poorest of the poor have stayed in the city, but many people have left Port-au-Prince." The international Red Cross said it has provided 12,000 people with clean water _ a drop in the bucket of overall need. "After the horror and difficulties of recent days, it is a joy to see children drink clean water and wash themselves," said Ugo Mora, a Red Cross engineer.

Other Red Cross workers set up first-aid posts in Petit-Goave, a coastal town 44 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of the capital. A Red Cross team with a surgeon was sent to Leogane, another city southwest of the capital.

"There is as much suffering in Leogane as there is in Port-au-Prince," said surgeon Hassan Nasreddine. "So far, many patients in Leogane could not be treated because the city's main hospital lacks everything."

At a news conference in Paris, Spain's defense minister said a Spanish ship would leave Thursday for Haiti with 450 military troops and 50 doctors and technicians.