Haitians Mourn Bishop, Aid Workers Continue Relief Efforts
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President Rene Preval and thousands of Haitians gathered Saturday at the ruins of a cathedral in the capital city to mourn Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, who was killed in the earthquake.
Heartbroken Haitians paid their last respects to the 63-year-old archbishop, who enjoyed great popularity in this largely catholic country.
Joseph Lafontant, the auxiliary bishop who led the funeral service, heartened the weeping crowd by saying: "The Creator wants us to take part in the creation of a new country, a new Haiti, a new world."
Despite grief at the destroyed cathedral, the flattened capital is slowly coming back to life 11 days after the 7.3-magnitude earthquake.
Things are beginning to return to normal in streets once clouded by nightmarish atmosphere. Traffic has resumed and grocery stalls have reemerged as painted buses letting out hot Caribbean music run through the streets.
In a survivor camp, dozens of people have built a miniature of the presidential palace with wood and carton. The 4-meter-wide structure with a national flag on it represents aspirations of Haitians to rebuild their country.
Haitians were particularly heartened by the miraculous rescue of a young man one day after the government declared an end to search and rescue work. The man in his 20s was pulled out of rubble in a downtown hotel after four hours of rescue on Saturday.
Rescuers believed that the food and drinks in the grocery where he worked might have helped the man survive the ordeal.
International aid workers are continuing their relief efforts as the Haitian government announced Saturday that the major earthquake on Jan. 12 had killed up to 112,000 people, hurt 194,000 others and left some 1 million homeless.
The World Food Program (WFP), which handed out 2 million food rations on Friday alone, said it had increased aid to hungry Haitians. The UN agency estimated that more than two thirds of the survivor camps had received aid.
However, looting and clashes occurred occasionally among people desperate for food.
Aid workers on Saturday had to shoot warning shots and fired tear gas to bring a crowd under control before a dump truck carrying bags of rice.
On Friday, a relief convoy was attacked and relief goods were looted in southern Port-au-Prince, UN officials said.
President Preval on Saturday urged the UN to establish a humanitarian force to help distribute food and aid supplies.
To prevent child trafficking, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has decided that anyone who wants to adopt and take a Haitian child out of the country must seek approval from both the Haitian prime minister and UNICEF. Recently, several hospitals in Haiti have reported cases of missing children.
The government and relief agencies are establishing hotlines and Web sites to help people living out of the country contact their relatives in Haiti.
At the same time, Haiti is struggling to get its fragile banking system back into operation so that overseas remittances, which account for one third of the country's GDP, can find their way into the caribbean nation without trouble.
Animal rights groups are also active in quake-torn Port-au-Prince, helping local farmers raise domestic animals and vaccinating street dogs to prevent diseases like rabies.
As Haiti starts reconstruction work, seismologists warn that efforts should be made to raise quake-proof standards of buildings in the Western hemisphere's poorest country.
(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2010)