As military and rescue teams began to stream in Thursday from the U.S. and other countries, veterans of past disasters say the grim realities of the Haiti earthquake set it apart from many other calamities, including the 2004 tsunami that devastated communities around the Indian Ocean, killing an estimated quarter million people.
“There are a lot of dimensions that make this an especially complicated situation,” said Steve Hollingworth, chief operating officer at the Atlanta-based relief group CARE.
Mr. Hollingsworth and other aid veterans list Haiti’s almost non-existent government, its battered infrastructure, and the fact that the quake devastated the country’s capital as among the top challenges that will plague relief efforts in coming days and weeks. Also high on their lists: the country’s extreme poverty and history of violence.
“When a country’s capital city is decimated, you lose a lot in terms of staging and organization,” said Randy Martin, head of global emergency operations at Mercy Corps. “This is going to be a real challenge.”