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On streets of Haiti's capital two days after quake, growing despair

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Security in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is virtually non-existent. Although U.N. peacekeeping troops are in the capital, Kelly Cobiella reports that gangs armed with machetes rule the streets.

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In the park across the street from the wrecked National Palace, Haiti's equivalent of the White House, a refugee camp grew. Playground equipment became makeshift dwellings. Men and women who had lost almost everything strung blankets over slides and monkey bars, then squatted in place, lest someone swipe their tiny spots.

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Mivesa Antoine huddled with three sons -- ages 3, 5 and 10 -- and what was now the sum total of his worldly possessions: one plate, one spoon, one cup and half a bag of rice.

"I was a businessman; I sold sodas," Antoine said. "Now I have nothing."

Almost no one, it seemed, was spared tragedy. Sima, the small and balding teacher, had barely escaped with his wife and five children as their house tumbled down in the quake. Then he heard on the radio about the collapse of St. Gerard, his 60-year-old cousin's school. "He was like a father to me," Sima muttered.

No space at the morgue

Arriving at the school, Sima found eight floors pancaked into five, a dusty white mountain of rubble. The body of a man in a golf shirt hung out from the ruined building, his hand extended -- as though showing off his gold wedding band.

About 20 men began picking at the debris. But hours later, they were still getting nowhere.

Sima turned angrily to a crowd of gawkers.

"Come help! Do not talk! Talk is cheap! Help!" he screamed.

Suddenly, one of the brightly painted public buses known as tap-taps pulled up, hired by a student's family. "Here's a generator!" a man in the crowd cried.

Through hours of digging, there was only one sign of officialdom. Around 2 p.m., a Haitian government official -- known as a civic action monitor -- appeared.

"If you have a pickup truck, bring the bodies to the General Hospital," the bureaucrat, Lamour Jean Guyto, called through a bullhorn, referring to a dozen corpses lying on the street near the school. He then walked past the bodies -- a St. Gerard student, a woman wrapped in a sheet printed with dragon cartoons, a naked baby boy covered with flies.

An off-duty police officer paused from his work digging a roadside grave. There were no cars to transport the bodies, he said, and no space at the morgue.

"That's why we've decided to bury them ourselves."


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