What can one say? The scale of the calamity simply numbs the mind. The need for a massive emergency relief is self-evident. Rush Limbaugh notwithstanding, I doubt that unwillingness to help will be a problem, least of all in the US, where the public and private response to these things is always fast and generous. Actually delivering the aid is another matter.
A badly damaged seaport, a congested one-runway airport, a shattered communications system and difficulty coordinating the aid have delayed relief efforts. Help will arrive too late for many. The Red Cross federation estimated that 45,000 to 50,000 people have been killed in the earthquake. Haitian officials have said the death toll could top 100,000.
The first Navy ship, the USS Higgins, arrived in Haiti Thursday morning, joining a small number of Coast Guard cutters that arrived on Wednesday. "You will not be forsaken," President Barack Obama promised Haiti as he ordered a $100 million aid effort spearheaded by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. A Chinese rescue team and two rescue teams from the U.S. arrived late on Wednesday, officials said.
Yet signs of the burgeoning global rescue effort proved elusive to many. As helicopters flew overhead Thursday, residents wondered whom the aircraft were helping. "There's been nothing, nothing, nothing at all since Tuesday," said Janel Pierre-Jacques, 33 years old, a plumber. "I had heard that aid was coming in but so far we haven't seen any."
The Economist has a good overview, and a good editorial to go with it. Reflections on more fundamental causes and remedies is no doubt necessary--see David Brooks--but not just now. It is hard to concentrate with the disaster still unfolding.