Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Despairs

From this morning's Wall Street Journal, "Haiti Despairs as Quake Deaths Mount":

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Cries from victims entombed beneath concrete debris pierced the air of seemingly every street in this crowded capital Wednesday, where shocked residents carried the injured and the dead a day after the nation was hit by a quake that some estimate has killed more than 100,000 people.

Haitians tried digging through rubble with their bare hands to rescue people trapped after the biggest earthquake to hit the impoverished Caribbean nation in two centuries. Thousands of buildings from shanties to the presidential palace were destroyed, streets were blocked by debris and telephone service was knocked out. Countries around the world, meanwhile, scrambled to send in help.

"Amwe! Amwe!"—"Help me!" in Creole—one woman called out amid the rubble of a primary school that collapsed in the Turgeau neighborhood.

Florence Devereaux, a paraplegic often found sitting outside her house in the Bois Verna neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, pointed to a house next door that had collapsed, burying at least four children under rubble. "We heard them asking for water, asking to get them out. But we can't. We have no tools. Where are the rescue teams?"

Many Haitians complained about the nonexistent rescue efforts from their own government and the apparently slow arrival of help from abroad, in particular the nearby U.S. "Who is in charge?"—Ki e ski responsab?—was a common question on the streets.

"A Chinese rescue team and two rescue teams from the U.S. should have arrived this evening," United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. He said the U.N. would coordinate the rescue effort of teams from various nations that will be arriving in coming days.

France, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe and other nations were also sending help to the Haitian capital, U.N. officials said. The government of Mexico, which regularly suffers from earthquakes, said it sent a team of specialists with trained dogs to help look for survivors.

For many Haitians, help was already too late. "It's a horror show," said John Burns, an American agricultural consultant who drove a four-wheel drive car around the city. "There are dead people all over the place, some covered, some uncovered."

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN and Reuters that the death toll could top 100,000.

"I don't think that's an exaggeration," said Alice Blanchet, a special adviser to the Haitian prime minister who lives in Brooklyn. She said Haiti's Justice Minister Paul Denis was unaccounted for. "I don't know of a single friend or family member of mine in Haiti who hasn't lost their home. They are all sleeping on the street. I have two cousins who are unaccounted for," she said, pausing for a moment. "I don't think I can understand what a big tragedy this is."

Among those who lost their home was the Haitian President René Préval, who told CNN that he didn't yet know where he would spend the night.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared the earthquake tragedy with the Asian tsunami that killed more than 220,000 people five years ago. "This will be a very high loss of life as well," said Mrs. Clinton, who said she is cutting short a trip to the Asia-Pacific to return to Washington to help oversee U.S. relief efforts.
See also, Michelle Malkin, "Haiti: How to Help."

BONUS: Former President Bill Clinton, "What We Can Do to Help Haiti, Now and Beyond."