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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A strong aftershock hit Haiti on Wednesday morning, shaking buildings and sending people running into the streets.  The preliminary 6.0 magnitude quake hit at 6:03 a.m., about 35 miles northwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake struck at a depth of 13.7 miles. The temblor sent scores of people fleeing into the streets, AP reporters in the Haitian capital said.

The aftershock came as the U.S. military announced that is sending additional ships to help with earthquake recovery in Haiti, including one that could remove debris blocking the main port, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

The defense chief signed orders Wednesday to send a port-clearing ship with cranes aboard to the devastated Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. The ship would remove debris that is preventing many larger ships from docking, holding up the delivery of vital food and other relief.

Speaking during a visit to India, Gates said the ship could help get the port back in operation within a week or two.

The Pentagon also reported Wednesday that a Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, had received its first Haitian patients. A 6-year-old boy and 20-year-old man, both severely injured, were flown by Navy helicopter from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the hospital ship, which was still steaming toward Haiti.

“As long as more than 2 million people in Haiti are still struggling to get food, water and medical care it is not for anyone to say (they are) satisfied with the level of efforts,” he said.

“Help has poured into the area,” Gates said, but “getting around the city is a major challenge.”

Daunting hurdles

On Tuesday, some 800 Marines moved ashore in Haiti, ferrying supplies on helicopters and Humvees as the U.S. military force there swelled to as many as 11,000.

Military officials said troops and supplies were arriving as fast as possible despite daunting logistical hurdles. Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the deputy commander for military operations in Haiti, said the military has delivered more than 400,000 bottles of water and 300,000 food rations since last Tuesday’s earthquake.

However, the colossal efforts to help Haiti are proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster and the limitations of the world’s governments. Expectations exceeded what money, will and military might have been able to achieve so far in the face of unimaginable calamity.

“God has abandoned us! The foreigners have abandoned us!” yelled Micheline Ursulin, tearing at her hair as she rushed past a large pile of decaying bodies.

Three of her children died in the quake and her surviving daughter is in the hospital with broken limbs and a serious infection.

Time is running out

Rescue groups continue to work, even though time is running out for those buried by the quake. A Mexican team created after that nation’s 1985 earthquake rescued Ena Zizi, 69. She had survived a week buried in the ruins of the residence of Haiti’s Roman Catholic archbishop, who died. Other teams pulled two women from a collapsed university building.

But most efforts are focused on getting aid to survivors.

“We need so much. Food, clothes, we need everything. I don’t know whose responsibility it is, but they need to give us something soon,” said Sophia Eltime, a 29-year-old mother of two who has been living under a bedsheet with seven members of her extended family. She said she had not eaten since Jan. 12.

is not just Haitians questioning why aid has been so slow for victims of one of the worst earthquakes in history — an estimated 200,000 dead, 250,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. Officials in France and Brazil and aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders have complained of bottlenecks, skewed priorities and a crippling lack of leadership and coordination.

“TENS OF THOUSANDS OF EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS NEED EMERGENCY SURGICAL CARE NOW!!!!!” said press a release from Partners in Health, co-founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, the deputy U.N. envoy to Haiti. “Our medical director has estimated that 20,000 people are dying each day who could be saved by surgery.” No details were provided on how the figure was determined.

The reasons for the delays are varied:

  • Both national and international authorities suffered great losses in the quake, taking out many of the leaders best suited to organize a response;
  • Woefully inadequate infrastructure and a near-complete failure in telephone and Internet communications complicate efforts to reach millions of people forced from homes turned into piles of rubble;
  • Fears of looting and violence keep aid groups and governments from moving as quickly as they’d like;
  • Pre-existing poverty and malnutrition put some at risk even before the quake hit.