Monday 18 December 2017

Fear and despair as corpses litter the devastated streets

Tim Reid in Port-au-Prince

THEY were bloated and rotting in the hot sun, many thrown together in a macabre embrace. I stared, appalled, not daring to breathe, at more than 1,000 abandoned dead outside this devastated city's central mortuary, enveloped in a hellish stench of death.

A few yards away, I watched as hundreds of listless men, women and children, on filthy mats and bloodstained sheets, lay in the heat with broken limbs, beset by flies, still untreated.

In the streets of central Port-au-Prince, people scrabbled with bare hands at the concrete and rubble that had once been their homes, some just to retrieve loved ones they knew were dead. There was not an aid truck or an ambulance in sight.

Here in Port-au-Prince, where an estimated 50,000 Haitians were killed and 300,000 left homeless, anger was mounting amid frustration and disbelief that food, medicine and foreign rescue workers had still not materialised, nearly four days after the disaster.

Aid workers, still struggling to deliver the food, water and medical supplies so desperately needed, warned that more security was needed as the Haitians' grief and shock began to turn to rage and blame. Last night most of the shops in the city had been looted, while the UN world food programme said that its warehouses had been ransacked for supplies.

"We are waiting but we have had nothing yet," Jean Claude Hillare shouted at me, standing in the central Champs de Mer, which has been turned into a shanty town of makeshift tents and destitute families.

"Nobody comes. Nobody," he said in disgust, before turning to point at the flattened Air France building, a mass of giant concrete slabs and twisted metal entombing an unknown number of dead.

"There are still people under there," Mr Hillare said. "For three days they shouted for help. Nobody came. They have stopped shouting now. They are dead.'' He begged me for help. "Here is my telephone number," he said, pressing it into my hand. "Please, please, talk to somebody, do something."

Outside the hospital, behind the devastated presidential palace, Marie Lourde Ulisse tended her seven-year-old son, Balnave, who lay on a mud-caked doormat with a gash on his head and a smashed foot.

Her husband and two other children were killed in the earthquake. Her home was destroyed. "Nobody is helping. We have no help, no medicine, no food. What is happening?"

This is Port-au-Prince's central hospital. Doctor Smith Lamarre said it has run out of medicine. Standing yards from the abandoned dead, spread far and wide around the morgue, he said there were only 20 Haitian doctors in the clinic.


As the daze and heat continue after the quake, officials now concede that thousands of bodies may never be recovered, or will be so decomposed by the time they are retrieved that they will be beyond recognition.

Amid some of the worst scenes of devastation, thousands of Haitians walked in the street, many wearing face-masks or holding rags across their noses to block the stench emanating from the rubble, and from giant piles of garbage and food rotting on the pavements. Some rammed limes up their noses to cope with the smell.

An angry crowd gathered at one collapsed building, much of their ire directed at a handful of heavily armed soldiers, who were stopping the crowd from helping the half-dozen Haitian search officials trying to find bodies and signs of life.

Down in the huge central square, thousands sat under sheets or tarpaulins, cooking what little food they had, their homes gone. Most seemed to be just waiting for something--- anything -- to help.(©The Times London)

Irish Independent

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