Shots fired as Haitian quake victims riot

January 24
UN troops fired warning shots and sprayed tear gas on Haitian quake survivors after a food delivery to hundreds of people spiraled out of control in the capital Port-au-Prince.

The distribution of food, soybean oil, water and radios at a former military airfield began calmly today, with two long lines of people waiting patiently across the field.

There were small scuffles for aid earlier by many who had seen no help since the massive January 12 earthquake reduced their homes to rubble, but as the violence spiraled Brazilian troops were eventually forced to resort to tear gas and firing shots into the air.

As order broke down and crowds poured out of the lines, peacekeepers abandoned a pile of radios and other aid for people to fight over as they stood by.

It was unclear if the delivery by the World Food Program and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was completed.

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The UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to send 3500 extra UN troops and police to quake-hit Haiti to help maintain order and protect humanitarian convoys.

MINUSTAH, active in the impoverished nation since mid-2004, currently has roughly 7000 troops, 2000 police and about 2000 civilian personnel.

A spokeswoman for the UN Organisation for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the incident appeared to be isolated, with little violence reported elsewhere in Haiti.

“It’s normal that there would be such isolated incidents due to exasperation and despair,” OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

She appealed to Haitians to remain calm and ensure that children, the elderly and infirm were not sidelined during aid distribution.

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