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Haiti now really is hell on earth

THE scale of death and destruction in the wake of the Haiti earthquake is almost unimaginable. Pictures and words only barely manage to convey the sense and extent of horror and devastation.

In a country where three out of every four live below the poverty line (on less than $2 a day) and where malnutrition kills a child each day, those who have survived can hardly be blamed for believing they are living through hell on earth.

One-third of the country's 9.8 million people live in the capital Port-au-Prince.

The city is now wrecked, a shocking expanse of broken, grotesquely twisted structures. It is certain they also represent the tombs of thousands trapped beneath.

Elsewhere, the flimsy shacks that represented homes to thousands and thousands, many of whom lived four or five to a room, lie flattened, covered in dust.

As our reporter Jason O'Brien writes elsewhere from his recent visit there: "The sheer volume of people crammed into the tiny spaces and narrow streets was stunning, even frightening."

Mother Nature has dealt a deadly blow to a people and a country that has suffered bad luck and catastrophe at such a level of frequency that many consider it a curse.

Today as we watch our TV screens and read our papers we are removed from the pall of death and destruction, the acrid smell of decay and dust, the heart-wrenching cries of despair.

No words can describe what the Haitians are going through. Imagine what it is like to have lost your family, your home, your neighbourhood all in one astounding moment.

It puts our weather privations in stark contrast. Here is life and death a world apart from ours. We should not let that distance dim the awful reality.

These people need help on a massive scale. We, as a nation, a society and a government are obliged to put as much succour at the disposal of Haiti as is humanly possible. We should realise our problems, big and all as they seem to us, are minuscule when placed alongside the frightening scale of what other human beings are having to endure.

Our response will be a measure of how our own setbacks have shaped our thinking and our concern for those whose lives are so profoundly affected by an act of God.

Irish Independent