Quantcast

50,000 feared dead in Haiti; aid efforts snarled by devastation

By Jonathan M. Katz and Tamara Lush

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 15 2010 12:14 a.m. MST

The looting of shops that broke out after the 7.0-magnitude quake struck late Tuesday afternoon added to concerns. The Brazilian military warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting by the desperate population.

"There is no other way to get provisions," American Red Cross representative Matt Marek said of the store looting. "Even if you have money, those resources are going to be exhausted in a few days." The city's "ti-marchant," mostly women who sell food on the streets, were expected to run out soon. Red Cross officials have estimated one-third of Haiti's 9 million people are in need of aid.

The quake brought down Port-au-Prince's gleaming white National Palace and other government buildings, disabling much of the national leadership. That vacuum was evident Thursday. No senior Haitian government officials were visible at the airport, although President Leonel Fernandez of the neighboring Dominican Republic said after meeting with President Rene Preval that the Haitian leader was in control of the situation, working from the airport.

"Donations are coming in to the airport here, but there is not yet a system to get it in," said Kate Conradt, a spokeswoman for the Save the Children aid group. "It's necessary to create a structure to stock and distribute supplies," the Brazilian military said.

Edmond Mulet, a former U.N. peacekeeping chief in Haiti, arrived Thursday from U.N. headquarters in New York to lead the relief effort, along with a U.N. disaster coordination team. The first U.S. military units to arrive took on a coordinating role at the airport, but State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley underlined, "We're not taking over Haiti."

Wimhurst said the Haitian police "are not visible at all," no doubt because many had to deal with lost homes and family members, and law-and-order needs had fallen completely to the 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers and international police in Haiti.

Across the sprawling, hilly city, people milled about in open areas, hopeful for help, sometimes setting up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food scavenged from the rubble. Small groups by roadsides could be seen burying dead. Other dust-covered bodies were being dragged down streets, toward hospitals where relatives hoped to leave them. Countless remained unburied, stacked up, children's bodies lying atop mothers, tiny feet poking from blankets.

The injured, meanwhile, waited for treatment in makeshift holding areas — outside the General Hospital, for example, where the stench from piles of dead, just a few yards (meters) away, wafted over the assembled living. Crews began removing unclaimed bodies with bulldozers, dumping them into trucks, possibly for mass burial.

Here and there, small tragedies unfolded. In the Petionville suburb, friends held back Kettely Clerge — "I want to see her," she sobbed — as neighbors with bare hands tried to dig out her 9-year-old goddaughter, Harryssa Keem Clerge, pleading for rescue, from beneath their home's rubble.

"There's no police, there's nobody," the hopeless godmother cried. By day's end, the girl was dead.

At the collapsed U.N. peacekeeping headquarters, an Estonian guard, Tarmo Joveer, was pulled alive and unhurt from the ruins at 8 a.m. Thursday, 39 hours after the quake — a "small miracle," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in New York. But U.N. officials reported that 36 other U.N. personnel, mostly peacekeepers and international police, were confirmed dead and almost 200 remained missing, including top staff.

Nearby, firefighters from Fairfax County, Va., and a rescue team from China, with sniffer dogs, clambered through rubble and searched for signs of life. Two excavators stood by, ready to dig for survivors — or dead. A French team, meanwhile, rescued three people alive from the wrecked Montana Hotel, U.N. officials reported.

European and Latin American nations reported scores of their nationals unaccounted for in Haiti, and a handful confirmed dead. Of the estimated 45,000 Americans in Haiti, the U.S. Embassy had contacted almost 1,000. Only one American was confirmed dead, a veteran Foreign Service officer, Victoria DeLong, killed in her collapsed home.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS