Earthquake rescue phase over says Haiti government

Click to follow
The Independent US

Haiti's government has declared the search for survivors of the country's devastating earthquake over, the United Nations said today.

The Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said 132 people were pulled alive from the rubble by international search and rescue teams.

Humanitarian relief efforts are still being scaled up in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Leogane and other areas affected by the quake, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

The decision comes the day after two people emerged from beneath the rubble of the stricken capital 10 days after the quake, temporarily reviving fading belief that others may have survived.

The rescues briefly punched through the grief shrouding legions of survivors as they streamed from the city's desolation or found refuge in its hundreds of squalid, makeshift camps.

Today, some are expected to gather for the funeral of the archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, near the ruins of his cathedral.

Far away, celebrities and artists made impassioned pleas for charitable donations during an internationally broadcast telethon last night.

"The Haitian people need our help," said Hollywood star George Clooney, who helped organise the two-hour telecast.

"They need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that we still care."

The 7.0-magnitude quake killed an estimated 200,000 people, according to Haitian government figures cited by the European Commission.

Countless dead remained buried in thousands of collapsed and toppled buildings in Port-au-Prince, while as many as 200,000 have fled the city of two million, the US Agency for International Development reported.

Scores of aid organisations, big and small, have stepped up deliveries of food, water, medical supplies and other aid to the homeless and other needy. But obstacles remained at every turn to getting help into people's hands.

"I want to leave but I don't have any money. I don't know where to go," said Demonere Mirlande, a 33-year-old mother who lost her home but survived along with her three young children.

Amid the wreckage, rescuers were still looking for survivors yesterday.

The Israeli team which saved 21-year-old Emmannuel Buso said relatives approached asking for help.

They pulled away the debris of a two-storey home and called out. To everyone's surprise, Mr Buso responded.

The slender student and tailor with deep-set eyes emerged so ghostly white that his mother told rescuers she thought he was a corpse.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr Buso said he had been coming out of the shower when the quake hit.

"I felt the house dancing around me," he said from a bed in an Israeli field hospital. "I didn't know if I was up or down."

He told of passing out in the rubble, dreaming at times that he could hear his mother crying.

The furniture in his room had collapsed around him in such a way that it created a small space for him amid the ruins of the house. He had no food. When he got desperately thirsty, he drank his urine.

"I am here today because God wants it," he said.

Also yesterday, an 84-year-old woman was said by relatives to have been pulled from the wreckage of her home, according to doctors administering oxygen and intravenous fluids to her at the General Hospital. She was in a critical condition.

Rescuers said they were encouraged but all too aware that few trapped people can survive for that long.

"Statistically you can say that the chance of survival is very low," said Fernando Alvarez Bravo, a representative in Mexico for rescue crews founded during the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, and still at work in Haiti yesterday.

"But the hope it gives the population to recover and find their loved ones helps them to recover quickly. They don't feel abandoned."

The rescues came two days after many international search teams began packing up their gear and other aid groups remained to grapple with challenges of helping survivors.

In the three miles (5km) or so between Port-au-Prince and hard-hit Carrefour, satellite images show 691 blockages on the road - collapsed houses or other debris - the UN reported.

In just one day, however, the US Navy hospital ship Comfort had made a difference. The giant white ship, which dropped anchor on Wednesday, had treated 932 patients and performed 32 surgeries by midday on Thursday, USAID reported.

President Rene Preval's administration as working with the United Nations Development Programme and other aid groups to restore electricity and telecommunications, reopen banks, businesses and money-transfer houses, and to provide at least low-paying jobs to Haitians desperate for income.

But it could take as long as three or four months to restore electricity in Port-au-Prince, which is now using generators.

Amid a scarcity of goods, prices have tripled for some products in Haiti, a poor Caribbean nation where 80% of the people survive on less than two dollars a day.

"Inflation is eating them alive," said UN Development Programme worker Eliane Nicolini.



Comments