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Anger grows in quake-hit Haiti over aid delay
PORT-AU-PRINCE, JAN 15 (Agencies):
Published on 15 Jan. 2010 11:55 PM IST
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Desperate Haitians set up roadblocks with corpses in Port-au-Prince on Thursday to demand quicker relief efforts after a massive earthquake killed tens of thousands and left countless others homeless. Angry survivors staged the protest as international aid began arriving in the Haitian capital to help a nation traumatized by Tuesday’s catastrophic earthquake that flattened homes and government buildings. More than 48 hours after the disaster, tens of thousands of people clamoured for food and water and help digging out relatives still missing under the rubble. Shaul Schwarz, a photographer for TIME magazine, said he saw at least two downtown roadblocks formed with bodies of earthquake victims and rocks. “They are starting to block the roads with bodies. It’s getting ugly out there. People are fed up with getting no help,” he said. The Haitian Red Cross said it believed 45,000 to 50,000 people had died and 3 million more -- one third of Haiti’s population -- were hurt or left homeless by the major 7.0 magnitude quake that hit its impoverished capital on Tuesday. The quake flattened buildings across entire hillsides and many people were still trapped alive in the rubble after two days, with little sign of organized rescue efforts. “We have already buried 7,000 in a mass grave,” President Rene Preval said. Planes full of supplies arrived at Port-au-Prince airport faster than crews could unload them and aviation authorities were restricting non-emergency flights. The influx of aid had yet to reach shellshocked Haitians who wandered the broken streets of Port-au-Prince, searching desperately for water, food and medical help. Relief workers warned the death toll will rise quickly if tens of thousands of injured Haitians, many with broken bones and serious loss of blood, do not get first aid in the next day or so. “The next 24 hours will be critical,” said U.S. Coast Guard officer Paul Cormier, 54, a qualified emergency worker who runs an orphanage in Haiti and has triaged 300 people since Tuesday’s disaster. Obama: “World stands with you” Looters swarmed a collapsed supermarket in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince, carrying out electronics and bags of rice unchallenged. Others siphoned gasoline from a wrecked tanker. “All the policemen are busy rescuing and burying their own families,” said tile factory owner Manuel Deheusch. “They don’t have the time to patrol the streets.” Doctors in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, were ill-equipped to treat the injured. The United States was sending 3,500 soldiers, 300 medical personnel, several ships and 2,200 Marines. Canadian military ships with 500 personnel were on the way and a disaster aid team had already arrived. “To the people of Haiti, we say clearly and with conviction, you will not be forsaken. ... America stands with you. The world stands with you,” President Barack Obama said. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Haiti had suffered a tragedy beyond imagination and “must become the center of our world’s attention, the world’s compassion and the world’s humanitarian help.” The United States pledged long-term help for the crippled Haitian government. Parliament, the national palace and many government ministry buildings collapsed and it was unclear how many lawmakers survived. The main prison also fell, allowing dangerous criminals to escape. Makeshift tents were strung everywhere and Haitians at one informal camp approached a journalist shouting “water, water” in a multitude of languages. “Please do anything you can, these people have no water, no food, no medicine, nobody is helping us,” said Valery Louis, who organized one of the camps. From time to time, aftershocks still shook the wrecked city, sending panicked people running away from buildings. The quake’s epicentre was only 10 miles (16 km) from Port-au-Prince, a sprawling and densely packed city of 4 million people in a nation dogged by poverty, catastrophic natural disasters and political instability. Haiti searches for life amid ruins “I just want my wife’s corpse,” said Lionnel Dervil, pleading in vain to bury his wife in his home province. But no one at the Doctors Without Borders compound paid much heed to the stricken Lionel, 38, a money-changer and father of four children. Instead, doctors were frantically tending to those still living who had streamed in. A watchman tried to keep a mob from pushing its way inside. It was hard to tell which was worse, the suffering of the dozens of victims behind the tall gate, or the scene on the sidewalk outside. One woman writhed on the pavement of the compound’s gate, her foot impaled by a piece of wood. A grandmother silently endured the pain of her right leg, twisted like a pretzel. Anesthesia remained a distant dream. Then there were the bodies — dozens, if not hundreds of them — starting to decompose under white sheets. Some of the bodies strewn on the sidewalk had names scribbled on pieces of cardboard. “Regina” had died somewhere before arriving at the entrance of the private St Esprit Hospital a few blocks from the Doctors Without Borders compound. No one there could explain who Regina was. Within the compound, a French volunteer offered a harried summary: “We are overwhelmed. We don’t have capacity for more victims. We don’t have time to talk. Please, I do not know what more to say. I must go now.” Lionel fixed his tired gaze on the soil below. “I just want my wife’s corpse,” he repeated. “I know they are busy tending to the survivors, but there is a room full of bodies that I cannot get to.” The wounded stared around that room of the dead, hoping their time had not yet come. Their relatives waited on the asphalt outside the compound, praying for their loved ones. The scene was repeated again and again in front of barely functioning hospitals and clinics throughout this barely functioning city. Soon dusk began to fall, enveloping this city, still without electricity, in darkness. An aftershock sent people running out of homes into the street. Many decided it would be safer to remain in the street. They chatted with neighbors and wondered what would come next in Port-au-Prince. Some lighted candles under the night sky. For some of those lying on the asphalt or in the parks, cellphones provided a brief glimpse of light. Then the singing began. Those gathered outside tents, on lawn chairs, sitting in the middle of empty streets, sang their hymns. One phrase in Creole could be heard repeatedly both inside and outside the hospital walls, as if those voicing the words were trying to make sense of the madness around them. “Beni Swa Leternel,” they sang. “Blessed be the Lord.” Haitian ministers reported dead in quake Berlin, Jan 15 (DPA): Several Haitian ministers and leading politicians were victims of Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake in the Caribbean nation, Jean-Robert Saget, Haiti’s ambassador to Germany, told DPA Friday. The dead include Justice Minister Paul Denis and opposition politician Michel Gaillard, Saget said. ‘I know that multiple ministers are dead, certainly Justice Minister Paul Denis was,’ he said. The temblor, which had its epicentre about 15 km southwest of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, may have killed more than 100,000 people in the impoverished nation.

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