Police Absent, Gangs Rule Streets of Haiti

Two days after a devastating earthquake in struck near the Haitian capital Port-au-Price, security is virtually non-existent. One U.N. official said today the Haitian police force "simply vanished" after the quake.

The U.N. has 3,000 peacekeeping troops to patrol the capital, but some of them are among the missing. The more than 3,500 American soldiers and 2,000 Marines on their way as well to help secure the city. But for now, gangs armed with machetes rule the streets, as CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports.

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After a second day with no food and no sign of help, desperation is turning to violence in the city's old commercial center.

Crowds are emptying the stores, grabbing anything they can carry - even mattresses, to avoid another night sleeping on concrete.

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With the smell of death and the stench of smoke downtown, Port-au-Prince feels like a war zone. Gangs with machetes rule the streets. Bodies are strewn everywhere. Families still in shock asked us over and over, "Where is the help?"

One man says he lost his wife. A woman says she found her young son, but he's still trapped in the rubble of their home.

Asked if anyone has been around to help they shake their heads no.

Another woman says she found her loved one dead in a pile of concrete. Her neighbors helped bring out the body.

They have no choice but to help themselves as best they can. Thousands of bodies line the streets. Volunteers are digging graves on a hillside, trying to give the dead some dignity and the living a better chance of fighting off disease.

There is no help coming from the presidential palace. The grandest symbol of downtown Port-au-Prince collapsed in the earthquake along with government services.

The violence today appeared to be localized to the downtown area, but the longer Haitians are forced to go without basic necessities the more likely it is that violence will spread.

Watch CBS News of men carrying machetes walking the streets of Port-au-Prince:


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  • Kelly Cobiella

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