published Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Enormous Haiti quake toll

As terrible as the initial death toll was from the huge earthquake in Haiti, the bad news has continued to mount, as many people are "missing," many have been trapped under debris, and water, food and medical care are needed for millions of survivors.

The International Red Cross has estimated the death toll may be 45,000 to 50,000. But that is only a guess. The number of people injured surely is much larger.

The immediate challenge is to dig out those trapped in wreckage, treat broken bones and other wounds, and provide sufficient water and food. Then there will be a pressing need to try to avoid a second wave of tragedy from disease.

Humanitarian efforts have been tremendous and commendable, but obviously not enough.

The U.S. Navy's big USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is typical of rushed aid. Many ships, aircraft, agencies and people have sought to offer helping hands. Hundreds of U.S. Army paratroopers have been rushed into Haiti. The whole area, in poverty in the best of times, suffers now from the lack of basic food and medical care, as communications, transportation and local organizations are almost totally broken down.

With the bad news that countless bodies have piled up in and around collapsed buildings, there fortunately are some good-news stories of amazing survivals in horrible circumstances. But the bad news obviously exceeds the good.

It is commendable that so many agencies, organizations and individuals are seeking to give much-needed aid. There will be governmental contributions from many nations, and countless individuals will want to make small and large contributions to meet urgent, personal, life-sustaining needs.

Rebuilding is far in the future. Taking care of millions of people who need water, food, medical care and shelter is the immediate enormous challenge. The generosity of many will help, but the problems are so much greater than the resources available. And the needs will continue for months, even years.

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