Haiti: Day Four

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.

Aftershocks & Global Aid

The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people might have died in the 7.3-magnitude earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Red Cross based the casualty figure on reports from a network of volunteers across the city, said Jean-Luc Martinage, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “We consider this as an estimate,” Martinage said.

Emergency aid from around the world began arriving in ravaged Haiti on Thursday as the frantic search for survivors continued. However, relief groups said the destruction from the deadly earthquake was making it difficult to get supplies to people.”It’s chaos,” UN humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told The Associated Press. “It’s a logistical nightmare.”

President Barack Obama and the U.S. moved to take charge in Haiti on Thursday, dispatching thousands of troops along with tons of aid to try to keep order as well as rescue the suffering in a country that’s dysfunctional in the best of times. He pledged an initial $100 million with the likelihood of more later.

Planes carrying teams from China, France and Spain also landed at Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince with searchers and tonnes of food, medicine and other supplies. A Canadian CC-177 military plane with emergency supplies also arrived around midday Thursday. CBC News reporter Sasa Petricic arrived on that plane with the advance element of Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). He said the jet had to circle the Port-au-Prince airport for about three hours before it could land, because the tarmac was too crowded with aircraft.

An Air China plane carrying a Chinese search-and-rescue team, medics and aid landed at the capital city’s airport on Thursday, led by more than 50 people in orange jumpsuits accompanied by trained dogs. “Most of the members are very experienced,” Liu Xiangyang, deputy chief of the National Earthquake Disaster Emergency Rescue Team, told the official Xinhua News Agency before its departure, referring to the May 2008 quake in southwestern China that left almost 90,000 people dead or missing.

Three French planes touched down Thursday to transport about 60 injured people to hospitals in the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

While the airport in the capital was damaged and the control tower collapsed in the quake, the runways are clear for landing. But the World Food Program said the airport is straining to handle dozens of incoming flights of supplies and rescuers. It also remains difficult to travel from the airport to the city as debris from collapsed buildings is littering the streets. As well, the organization said damage to the port in Port-au-Prince is preventing ship deliveries to the quake-struck region.

John Holmes, the UN’s relief co-ordinator, praised the international community for its response, but he acknowledged that the people in desperate need in Haiti may feel that help isn’t coming fast enough. “Inevitably the reality is that, however fast we try to move, it will always be too slow for those people who are on the ground who are waiting impatiently for help, and that’s something which is very frustrating, particularly for them, but, of course, it’s very frustrating for us too,” he said. “If we could snap our fingers and make these things arrive, we would do that, but that’s not possible,” Holmes told reporters in New York City.

Canada has promised humanitarian aid to the island. Two ships — HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax — departed from Halifax Thursday afternoon loaded with supplies and equipment, including a helicopter, first-aid kits and 500 Canadian soldiers.

The International Red Cross has estimated three million people — a third of the population — may need emergency relief that includes shelter, food and clean water. “We’ll be using whatever roads are passable to get aid to Port-au-Prince, and if possible we’ll bring helicopters in,” said Emilia Casella, a spokeswoman for the United Nations food agency in Geneva.

Those who were able, used sledgehammers and their bare hands to try to find victims in the rubble. Survivors were being transported by pickup trucks, wheelbarrows and doors converted into makeshift stretchers. Thousands of Haitians spent another night outside as survivors set up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food scavenged from the rubble. Many won’t return to their homes, fearing aftershocks that have continued to hit the country will knock down the already weakened structures. Thousands of homes as well as the National Palace have been destroyed or damaged.

Haitian Earthquake

Heavy-hearted, I watch CBC as the horrible devastation in Haiti unfolds before the world. Yesterday, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit very close to the highly populated city of Port-au-Prince. So many buildings have been destroyed in the earthquake, killing thousands and trapping unknown numbers of people. The Canadian government has set up this page for information about the quake.
According to Haitian President, René Garcia Préval:”Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. The airport has collapsed.”, he said. “There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them.” Right now it is proving difficult to get information from Haiti, but humanitarian agencies are doing the best they can to mobilize support. For additional images from Haiti, see the BBC.

Canada has already sent military support to facilitate humanitarian aid in the form of ships loaded with supplies, search and rescue teams and helicopters. All is en-route in efforts to support the people of Haiti. Historically, Haiti is a troubled, impoverished country that has endured many years of strife and tragedy. The courage and endurance of the people of Haiti are once again being tested.At the time of the earthquake, there were 82 Canadian police officers, from various police agencies, on the ground in Haiti. Eighty (80) officers have been located and are uninjured. Efforts continue to locate the two remaining officers: RCMP Superintendent Douglas Coates (Ottawa) and RCMP Sergeant Mark Gallagher (Halifax).

The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, today announced that the Government of Canada will immediately provide up to $5 million for urgent humanitarian assistance to Haitians affected by the catastrophic earthquake on January 12th. This will help provide emergency shelter, medical services, food, relief items, water and sanitation services, as well as protection. “Our government is deeply concerned about the impact of the earthquake and we want to ensure that the immediate basic needs of the Haitian people are met quickly and effectively,” said Minister Oda. “In the face of so much devastation, we will continue to work closely with local authorities, international organizations and UN agencies to help bring relief to those affected and provide support as people rebuild their lives and communities.” The Government of Canada will monitor the situation closely, and will work in partnership with the Haitian government and partners on the ground to establish what further response will be appropriate.

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Haitian by birth and Canada’s Governor General, released the following, tearful statement: “I am following, with great attention and concern, the emerging reports regarding the earthquake that struck Haiti with force, and which was felt elsewhere in the region. This natural disaster has hit a country with an extremely fragile infrastructure, where many buildings are already unstable, and where living conditions are often very difficult. I fear for its people. I would like all Haitians to know that they are not alone and that the people of Canada will respond to this emergency.”

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.

Haiti and Haitians need our help urgently.

14 January 2010 Edited to add:

Today the Canadian government announced it will match contributions, to eligible Canadian organizations, to help people affected by the earthquake. Through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), contributions made between January 12 and February 12, 2010, will be matched to a maximum of $50 million.

The CBC has released this article concerning the matching contributions.