PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Food, water and medicine began to trickle in Friday, and Haitians received some welcome news from the United States, even as reports emerged of more cities left in ruin and isolation.
With a U.S. aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of Haiti and the security situation deteriorating in the nation's capital, the commander of the U.S. military relief effort said supply lines had finally begun moving.
"If the citizens of Haiti will just remain in place and remain calm, help is on the way," Gen. Douglas Fraser, the head of the U.S. Southern Command, said at a news briefing in Miami.
The Haitian government, he said, had begun broadcasting the locations of distribution centers for food, water and medicine.
"Go to those place, use those places," he said. "That's where you can get help."
A reprieve also arrived from President Obama, who on Friday approved Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, which will allow them to stay and work in the U.S., and send money home to their loved ones.
The announcement followed an earlier order from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who temporarily halted deportations, allowing 30,000 Haitians with expulsion orders to remain in the U.S.
Though there was little evidence of relief yet in the desperate streets of Port-au-Prince, supplies were moving out of the city's airport, Fraser said.
More military forces were on the way as well to help the 4,200 personnel already in the country or offshore on the USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Heavy equipment to clear rubble-choked roads was coming with them, but Fraser acknowledged that there were major obstacles ahead and said he could not yet estimate when aid would begin arriving to the hardest-hit areas.
"I don't have a timeline right now because we don't have a good idea of the full extent of the problems," he said.
Outside the capital, Haitians continued to struggle with the devastation.
In the coastal city of Jacmel, in southwestern Haiti, scores of homes and buildings were reduced to rubble. At a vocational and auto school, an estimated 100 students were crushed when the building collapsed, neighbors said. Several bodies could be seen amid the wreckage.
The winding road between Jacmel and Port-au-Prince is buried in mounds of dirt and travelers are forced to get through on motorcycles.
The obstacles will only leave Jacmel and other cities and towns in southern and western Haiti more isolated and desperately in need of water, medicine and food.
"We need so much help, because there are people injured at the hospital, because there are a lot of bodies under the building," said Phen Lafondse, 34, an electrician.
In the Dominican Republic town of Jimani, on the border with Haiti, authorities said they were bracing for "tens of thousands" of Haitian refugees.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said up to 50 percent of the buildings in Port-au-Prince and other hard-hit areas have been damaged, the Associated Press reported.
The U.N. said 37 of its personnel were now confirmed dead and more than 300 were still unaccounted for after the organization's headquarters collapsed during Tuesday's earthquake.
"There is chaos, but the chaos is for everybody, even those managing the chaos," first lady Elisabeth Preval told the Miami Herald. "Right now we just extracted a senator from the parliament."
The new damage reports come as security was deteriorating in Port-au-Prince.
Eyewitnesses in Port-au-Prince said frustrated survivors had blocked some roads with corpses and groups of men were spotted roaming the streets with machetes.
The U.N. World Food Program said its warehouses in the capital had been looted and didn't know how much of its 15,000-ton stockpile of food remained, AP reported. The Brazilian military warned aid groups to add security details.
Four Coast Guard cutters had arrived to provide relief and evacuate the injured, Napolitano said in a statement.
By Friday morning, the USS Carl Vinson was off the coast of Haiti, ready to run helicopter sorties to designated landing zones and drop off relief supplies.
"We stand ready to deliver," said Navy Rear Adm. Ted Branch, operation coordinator for the Vinson, adding that two choppers had already delivered water to Port-au-Prince airport.
Branch described the scale of the devastation as "daunting" and said the supply runs would be complicated in hilly and debris-strewn areas, in part because the debris could get caught in rotor blades.
In Haiti, the vanguard of 900 paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division was already on the ground to help secure distribution sites, Branch said.
Also Friday, the Dominican Institute of Communications said mobile phone service in Haiti had been restored after it established a satellite uplink in Port-au-Prince. But many callers were still having trouble getting through.
Meanwhile, the Navy and Coast Guard are using the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba as a way-station for injured American citizens being evacuated from Haiti, said Jose Ruiz, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami. He had no comment on whether there were plans to use it for a bigger humanitarian mission, but the base was equipped to shelter 10,000 refugees in pop-up tents.
The Cuban government also permitted direct flights over Cuba to bring the injured to Miami.
Typically, U.S. aircraft have to go around Cuba to reach the remote base in southeast Cuba, a Cold War legacy that adds about 90 minutes to travel time from south Florida.