Efforts to deliver desperately needed food, water and medical help to victims of Haiti’s earthquake intensified on Friday even as the voices of survivors buried underneath mountains of rubble began to fall silent. Cargo planes and military helicopters swooped in and out of the crowded airport in Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of military troops were arriving, with more on the way. Some 25 rescue teams fanned out to collapsed hotels, schools and homes, and aid groups said they had given food and blankets to thousands of people. But 2 million to 3 million are still in dire need, and patience was wearing thin on the streets as Haiti went another day with no power and limited fresh water.
Throughout the capital, search teams from around the world joined with Haitians to continue the painstaking task of picking through the precarious piles of hotels, houses and other buildings. Listening for the cries of survivors, they climbed through the wreckage and lifted away debris with their bare hands, trying to avoid getting trapped or crushed themselves. Overnight, rescuers pulled eight survivors from the rubble of the Hotel Montana, a popular tourist destination, and on Friday morning, they pulled out a Dan Woolley, an American man with a Colorado-based Christian charity, who had been trapped in the hotel’s elevator.
For rescuers and those buried, every hour that passed was an enemy. “The time window is ever shrinking,” said Florian Westphal, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. Residents interviewed through the city said that the cries that they heard emanating from many collapsed buildings in the initial hours after the quake had begun to soften, if not quiet completely. “There’s no more life here,” said a grandmother Thursday, who nonetheless rapped a broom against concrete in hopes that her four missing relatives, believed to be buried inside, might somehow respond.
On Thursday, rescuers worried they would be limited in how many people they could help because of a lack of heavy equipment. “Where’s the response?” asked Eduardo A. Fierro, a structural engineer from California who had arrived Thursday to inspect quake-damaged buildings. “You can’t do anything about the dead bodies, but inside many of these buildings people may still be alive. And their time is running out.”
Those who are rescued often need immediate care to avoid death from the shock and kidney failure than can occur in people with crushed limbs as accumulated toxins in damaged tissue rush into the bloodstream. Patients with crush injuries are often given saline and a substance called mannitol, both of which increase the flow of urine and flush out the kidneys, but medical supplies remained scarce in much of the capital. A 21-year-old student with a crushed foot was extracted from the rubble of a school, but it was not clear whether he would get the amputation or treatment he needed to live.
Two aftershocks of approximately 4.5-magnitude rumbled through the island at about 4 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. Friday, according to the United States Geological Survey, spreading fresh tremors of fear through the capital, where thousands spent another night outside or in temporarily shelters, still without electricity or reliable phone service. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s former president who was ousted five years ago, wept Friday as he told The Associated Press in Johannesburg that he and his family want to return and “help rebuild the country.”
There were signs of resilience in the midst of the rubble and grief as many Haitians, long accustomed to privation and unreliable government services, went on with their lives. Hotels that survived the earthquake were still booking rooms, and taxi drivers were threading through the debris-covered streets. At the Dominican border, the small town of Jimani became a rescue centre, a way station for Americans being airlifted from Port-au-Prince and a destination for convoys carrying the earthquake’s wounded to a hospital there. “They just keep coming,” said Pastor Leocadio Alcantara, who estimated the hospital had seen some 5,000 people in three days. Normally, he said, busy was when they saw 100 in that time.
Please consider donating to the Red Cross, World Vision, Plan Canada or Doctors Without Borders. Plan Canada is also accepting donations of $5 by texting HAITI to 30333. Every single dollar is important.
Reporting was contributed by Damien Cave and Ray Rivera from Port-au-Prince; Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations; Donald G. McNeil Jr., Denise Grady and Jack Healy from New York; Ginger Thompson, Jeff Zeleny, Elisabeth Bumiller, Helene Cooper and Brian Knowlton from Washington.