Miracle among the quake ruins rampage
Starving thousands on looting
Published 16/01/2010 | 05:00
Amid the stench of death and deepening despair, rescuers yesterday found a boy alive in the rubble.
Fifty hours into its nightmare, Port-au-Prince deserved a miracle. His name was Redjeson Hausteen Claude.
Limp, bewildered and barely two years old, he was lifted from the concrete that had imprisoned him since Tuesday by an exultant Spanish search-and-rescue team -- three days after the earthquake struck.
The boy defied a disaster that shook a colonial cathedral to pieces in 30 seconds. His face broke into a thankful smile when he saw his mother, Daphnee Plaisin, and she cried tears of joy and relief as he was handed to her. There has been little of either for thousands of others still hoping for miracles.
A massive search-and-rescue operation, with teams from at least a dozen countries, has swung into action in the past 36 hours -- but only after clogging the airport and then dispersing to embassies and awaiting the findings of reconnaissance squads that, in some cases, have put expatriate victims first.
Angry crowds gathered yesterday outside the Caribbean Supermarket, once Haiti's largest, now a thick concrete pancake stinking of death. Haitians worked frantically with bare hands and, eventually, wheelbarrows brought water to those still alive.
Rumours that there might be up to 54 survivors fuelled the desperation of those clamouring to be let in to join the search, but Fred Burr said they were being kept out because looters had stolen jewellery from the bodies of two women lying nearby under a tarpaulin.
"The focus for some of the people working here is to get at the money on the bodies and in the cash registers," he said. "That makes me angry, but it makes me more angry that there's no one in charge here."
Along Boulevard Delmas, the city's busiest thoroughfare, avalanches of debris still marked where buildings were taken out. Families camped out under tarpaulins with no food and no water except what they could collect from occasional visits by water tanker trucks. As night falls, the side streets turn into vast open-air dormitories.
One woman told the story of her own minor miracle. "I had bought a new car and it was being delivered at last," said Miriam Flavil, a French citizen.
"I went outside with my boyfriend and my daughter to look at it, and behind us our house just disappeared.
"My grandmother and her servant were inside," she said. "They died. After two days we found their bodies and took them to the cemetery."
These victims have had the dignity of a burial, though not yet of a funeral. Hundreds more are still entombed.
"We are living through a nightmare in broad daylight," a radio announcer said. It shows no sign of ending. (© The Times, London)