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Looters in Port-au-Prince undeterred by violence, U.N. peacekeepers

Sunday, January 17, 2010; A16

The first sign of looting: young men swaggering down the street with brightly colored bolts of cloth. First one. Then 10. Like something was on sale. Soon, more men, staggering under the weight of sacks of rice.

Fights broke out. The looters swung iron bars and split wood on each other. One threatened a photographer with a hack saw. But the looting continued.

Grand Rue Dessalines is the heart of commerce in the city, usually a chaotic, dirty, busy place, lined with merchant's stores and warehouses. Haiti imports almost everything. Now all the stores are closed, some cracked and crumbling. The ones still standing are locked. And with no water in the pipes, little food for sale, and police scattered or absent, there were opportunities Saturday to take what you wanted.

While throngs of shouting men scaled a pile of rubble into the second floor above the Benji Shop to take out rolls of plastic and cloth, a patrol of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers from the Philippines drove by with their weapons drawn.

They didn't stop.

Neither did the looting.

-- William Booth

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