As search for survivors slows in Haiti, humanitarian efforts intensify
Friday, January 22, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- The hunt for survivors of Haiti's earthquake slowed Thursday, but a humanitarian operation intensified, with relief workers sending food to imperiled orphans and truckloads of water and generators snarling traffic in the capital.
Still, with the death toll at 75,000, according to Haiti's government, the crisis continued to dwarf aid efforts. The International Organization for Migration said it had tents for 2,000 families but needed 200,000 more. Medical groups scrambled to find space for patients' beds.
At the Notre Dame de la Nativite orphanage in southern Port-au-Prince, director Eveline Louis-Jacques waited anxiously Thursday for a delivery from the World Food Program -- the first major aid she was scheduled to receive since the 7.0-magnitude quake struck Jan. 12.
"It has been really, really difficult to find milk for the children," she said, standing outside a walled complex of crushed buildings where 56 of the 136 orphans in her charge had died. Some of the tiny survivors lay outside on the sidewalk, dozing on thin mattresses, while others shrieked and played in a garden area cordoned off from the rubble.
More than 120 people have been pulled alive from the rubble since the quake. Capt. Louie Fernandez of the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue team told reporters that searches were still underway but that reports of trapped people had dwindled.
"Citizens were clamoring to get to us, saying they heard a voice, but that is slowing down," he said.
In the face of the crisis, Haitians struggled to put their lives back together. Women set up stands offering a handful of carrots, eggplant or grapefruit. Some hawked clothes or soap.
In the western Delmas 48 neighborhood, more than 100 people shoved and argued in line outside one of the few money-transfer offices that had opened. Security guards with batons tried to control the crowd, many of whom were screaming, "They're going to run out of money!" Ketsia Jean, 19, was hoping relatives in the United States had sent her cash. "I really need it," she said.
In the central Poste Marchand neighborhood, quake victims trickled into one of the city's few open pharmacies. Most wanted what owner Francesca Celestin said she doesn't have -- asthma and sinus medicines, which were destroyed in the quake. Celestin did have eyedrops to offer Adrien Claudi, a 25-year-old with a red and swollen right eye. "It hurts so much," Claudi said. "Something fell in there during the quake."
A few supplies were stacked in the corner -- soap, toothpaste, cough medicine, vitamins. But Celestin expects everything to disappear soon, and she has no idea when she'll get more.
At least two small aftershocks rattled the country Thursday, compounding the distress of millions of traumatized Haitians.
In a hospital courtyard in the southern city of Jacmel, people jumped as the ground trembled shortly before noon. "My God, my God," a woman with gauze wrapped around her head murmured, "when will it end?"