Matthew Price: Where the living sleep among the dead

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The Independent Online

There is a body lying outside L'Hôpital de la Paix in Port-au-Prince – but it is the sight that awaits you inside the hospital grounds that is most alarming.

It is as if a massacre has been perpetrated here. Dirty white sheets cover some of the dead. Others lie in the open, some with their limbs entwined with another's. Many are the bodies of adults, but here to the right is a baby on her back, her belly bloated and pronounced. She is wearing a silvery blue top, just lying by the curb, abandoned.

A man stirs to the left. He unfurls a blanket that covers the ground and lies back down. The living are sleeping among the dead. Nearby, still outside, a woman lies on a hospital bed. Like many she is too scared of aftershocks to stay inside. That is why they are here, out under the dark, star-filled sky.

A man with wide eyes stares at a passing stranger. A relative moves to lift the sheet covering his two broken legs, as if there was any need to emphasise the suffering here. A woman lies on an unfolded cardboard box. There is a pool of her blood slowly collecting below her waist.

She needs help – so does everyone. The screams and whimpers of those in pain echo down the corridors. There are few doctors, little medicine. It is clear that many of those brought to the hospital with injuries have since died here.

One man with tears in his eyes pointed to his young daughter lying on the dirty tiled floor.

She has two broken legs and a large gash in her head. Her sister is already dead.

"Ca va?" her father asks. "Oui," she replies softly – but she is far from OK.

This country, so often in the past forgotten by the world, now needs its help more than ever.

So, too, does another little girl lying on a table at the hospital. She stirs a little, almost looking as though she is asleep.

It is not, though, a peaceful sleep – and by dawn she could well be dead.

Matthew Price is a BBC correspondent in Port-Au-Prince. This is an edited extract from a report for BBC Online

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