Life and Death in Port-au-Prince 2 Days After Earthquake Hits
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Corpses littered the streets on Thursday while an untold number of people were still trapped, alive or dead, in flattened buildings in the gloomy quake-hit Haitian capital more than 48 hours after the heart-wrenching catastrophe.
About 90 percent of buildings collapsed in the once picture-perfect Caribbean city of more than 2 million people, while many houses were practically razed to the ground in the magnitude-7.3 earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday
The quake brought down the presidential palace, the parliament and many other government ministry buildings, while St. Mary's Cathedral was reduced to broken walls. Among the government institutions, the building of the Haitian national police is the only one that suffered minor damage.
Among the city's hospitals, only a small one near the embassy area is struggling to treat the injured, and almost all schools suffered damage of varying degrees.
In the heat of 27 degrees Celsius at noon, buzzing flies hovered in the stench of piled up corpses while passing vehicles left clouds of dust, forcing pedestrians to cover their face and walk away.
Crowds of homeless people, dazed and downcast, roamed the streets to search for their loved ones, with some men even wailing hopelessly.
Meanwhile, many Haitians have arrived from other parts of the country to look for their relatives or friends in the capital city, while others fled the city in any vehicle they could manage to board to seek refuge elsewhere.
Traffic was thus in confusion. It came to a standstill in the devastated downtown area where vehicles could barely manage to budge.
The Haitian government was overwhelmed and paralyzed by the scale of the calamity. Ill-coordinated relief efforts left local people high and dry in the city where power supplies and communication lines had been cut off.
Sporadic lootings have been reported in the city. Desperate locals clamored for water on a truck, while the driver stood by and watched helplessly.
Yet hopes remain. Many countries, including China, Russia and the United States, have pitched in to send rescue teams and aid supplies to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
China's rescue team arrived in Port-au-Prince on early Thursday morning, with 50 members of the International Rescue Team of China, three rescue dogs and more than 20 tons of equipment and humanitarian aid.
A large number of injured Haitians have stood in line waiting to be treated by the Chinese doctors on the plaza in front of the quake-affected Prime Minister's Office building.
Five patients at a time were carried by volunteers to the humble "mobile hospital" -- a wood board improvised as a table with all medicine on it.
Most of the patients suffered physical traumas and the long-time exposed wounds were infected in many of the cases, Hou Shike, chief doctor of the rescue team told Xinhua.
"Doctors and medicine are badly needed here," Hou said in a painful tone. With each "Merci (Thank you)" from a cured patient, the medicine that the rescuer brought from China became less.
"I hope there are more rescue teams joining us," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency January 15, 2010)