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U.S. Military Begins Massive Haiti Aid Push

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Madeleine Brand, hosting the program from California for the next two weeks.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block in Washington.

We begin this hour with the deployment of U.S. troops to Haiti. Soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division landed today in the compound surrounding the crumbled National Palace. And some Marines have arrived, but they haven't yet hit the streets. Aid deliveries are still only reaching a tiny portion of the desperate population. Authorities say one and a half million residents of the capital are out of their homes.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Port-au-Prince.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Hundreds of Haitians gathered outside the wrought-iron gates of the National Palace to watch the U.S. soldiers inside. At another time, the sight of heavily armed American troops standing in front of the toppled National Palace may have caused outrage. But today, many Haitians welcomed it.

Ms. DARLENE JEAN(ph): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Darlene Jean says the arrival of the Americans gives her hope. The Haitian government can't do anything for us right now, she says. Most of the Haitian government offices collapsed in the quake, and there's been only a few Haitian police in the street. If the American government didn't come in, she says, you might as well bury us because we are already dead. Jean says she lost her older brother and her house in the quake. She says if she had the money for bus fare, she'd go out to her parents' village, but the quake left her with nothing.

Unidentified Man #1: No problem.

Unidentified Man #2: Who are these people? Stop, stop, stop.

(Soundbite of bus)

BEAUBIEN: At the General Hospital, troops from the 82nd Airborne took over security at the front gate and insisted that people were no longer allowed to wander in and out for no reason. The soldiers also distributed food and water at the city's golf course, where thousands of people are sleeping out in the open. Navy helicopters ferried relief supplies in from the USS Carl Vinson. And for the first time, some U.S. soldiers also guarded street corners near where there's been heavy looting.

(Soundbite of vehicle)

BEAUBIEN: Reginald Lucian(ph) also said he is happy to finally see the American presence on the streets, but he's still upset about past U.S. actions towards Haiti, particularly the removal of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

Mr. REGINALD LUCIAN: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: When Bill Clinton was president, he said he was going to build many miles of roads in Haiti, but he didn't do it, Lucian said. Now, Barack Obama sends Clinton as one of the persons to lead what's going on here. It's his chance to prove himself. But the one person the people are really waiting for is Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Former President Bill Clinton is actually the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, not President Obama's envoy, as many Haitians seem to think. Clinton was in Haiti yesterday, surveying the damage.

With more troops on the street, things felt calmer today in downtown Port-au-Prince, where yesterday there had been extensive looting. Traffic ground to a halt as more people ventured out into the debris-strewn roadways. People sold bananas and tomatoes and fresh bread by the side of the road. At least one supermarket reopened, but with guards armed with shotguns at the front door. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to live out on the streets, and many say they haven't seen any relief deliveries.

Ms. MARY ANDREA LAMBROSE(ph): Nothing, nothing where I live - nothing. They have no food, no water, nothing.

BEAUBIEN: Mary Andrea Lambrose, who used to live in Florida, says people are getting desperate.

Ms. LAMBERT: Right now, my neighbor let me wear this clothes. I don't have nothing. My brother died. My son and my daughter

BEAUBIEN: The 40-year-old Lambrose says she is glad to see the American soldiers. She wants to see even more Americans coming. The Haitian government simply doesn't have the resources, she says, to rebuild her shattered city.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Port-au-Prince. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.
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