Correction to This Article
The article about rescues at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, misspelled the last name of a 31-year-old Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worker mentioned on a Facebook page that lists people missing from the hotel since the earthquake. The missing worker is Diane Caves, not Diane Cave.

Death toll growing at Port-au-Prince's Hotel Montana, once a symbol of stability

This gallery collects all of our photos of the crisis in Haiti, starting with the most recent images and going back to the first photos that emerged after an earthquake hit the impoverished nation Jan. 12.
By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Before the earthquake, the Hotel Montana was the place to be in Haiti. During coups and crises, it provided air-conditioned shelter from the political storms for the diplomats, spies and aid workers -- and a few heavy-duty criminals -- who gathered nightly at the News Bar under a towering mahogany tree to sip rum sours concocted by Monsieur Lauren, known as the best barman in the country.

To many foreigners, as well as the Haitian elite, the Montana stood for security and stability in a country that often lacked both. Now the Port-au-Prince landmark lies in ruins, as families of missing American, Canadian and French citizens press their embassies for any news of life at the scene of the most concentrated international search-and-rescue effort mounted since the Jan. 12 quake.

It does not look good. As body identification teams proceed with their grim assignment, the list of the dead is growing -- posted on a tree in the hotel's circular drive because the reception desk is buried under rubble. Most reporters are being kept away as workers in white biohazard suits pull bodies out and then stumble off to vomit in the bushes.

"Except for miracles, hope is unfortunately fading," Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Saturday.

Some rescue workers have said privately that too many resources have been deployed at the Montana, at the expense of searches elsewhere, and that the U.S. and other governments have focused more attention on those missing at the hotel than on Haitian survivors.

A Facebook page, Haiti Earthquake Hotel Montana, had more than 13,000 members as of Saturday evening and is filled with news, prayers, frustration -- and photos of those probably lost in the quake. The posts are poignant: "Diane Cave, Room 220, may have been on way to gym" or "David Apperson last seen in lobby."

Some people post messages of support not only for the families but also for the missing. It is not as strange as it might seem. Cellphone service, disrupted at first, has improved. Someone in the rubble could have received e-mail.

The affiliations of the missing tell part of the story. Many guests at the Montana were working for organizations such as Food for the Poor, Compassion International and the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

A dozen students from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., were here volunteering with Food for the Poor. Four of them, all women, are missing, along with two faculty members who accompanied them.

Angel Aloma, executive director of Food for the Poor, stood in the driveway in the gathering darkness, hugging Gerthe Cardoso, one of the hotel's owners. The two were going through names of staff members, with Aloma asking whether they were alive and Cardoso answering -- yes, no, yes.

"These were not employees, they were family," Cardoso said. "Our accountant. Our waiters. Some had been with us for 15 or 20 years. They came to weddings, birthdays, funerals."

Aloma asked after the famous bartender. "He is gone," Cardoso said, her eyes filling with tears. "Oh, Lauren!"

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