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Risk of epidemic grows as water runs out and sanitation suffers

MEDICAL experts warned yesterday that the collapse of water supplies and a lack of basic sanitation could lead to a major epidemic in Haiti.

Thousands of people made homeless by the earthquake have been forced to live on the streets without food, water or medical treatment.

Doctors said those who were injured could suffer life-threatening infections without prompt treatment, and the risk of communicable diseases such as dengue fever and typhoid was growing by the day.

Another health concern was the bodies that lie all around the city, some wrapped neatly in sheets and blankets, others covered with pieces of cardboard. With a shortage of morgue space and body bags -- and rain expected -- there were fears of further contamination to water supplies.

"On a good day, Port-au-Prince is a major public health concern," said Caroline Hotham of Oxfam.

Eight hospitals and health facilities in Port-au-Prince have been either destroyed or damaged. Collapsed roads and bridges mean that ambulances cannot reach the injured and medical staff have had to leave patients unattended while they walk to pharmacies for drugs.


As people were pulled from the rubble, locals carried them in wheelbarrows or used doors as stretchers to take them to hospitals, only to wait with hundreds more outside.

Others, balancing suitcases and belongings on their heads, streamed on foot into the countryside, where wooden and cinder block shacks showed little sign of damage.

Survivors who feared returning to their precarious homes because of a series of aftershocks slept in open areas, where groups of women sang religious songs in the dark and prayed for the dead.

"They sing because they want God to do something. They want God to help them. We all do," said an employee of Hotel Villa Creole, which was badly damaged but has become a refuge for many foreigners, who are sleeping around the pool. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent