Disasters & Accidents

Haitian hospitals overwhelmed by earthquake casualties

Les Cayes, Haiti, Aug 16 (EFE).- Hospitals here in the nearest city to the epicenter of the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that rocked southwestern Haiti’s Tiburon peninsula over the weekend were stretched to their limits Monday.

The death toll has reached 1,419, while at least 6,900 other people were hurt, according to the latest figures from the administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

At the General Hospital in Les Cayes, a city of roughly 100,000 residents, the flow of patients was so great that staff took to labeling them with numbers affixed to their foreheads.

The less seriously injured must remain outside, though that arrangement will no longer be tenable when the rains from Tropical Storm Grace arrive later Monday.

And a large number of patients in serious condition have been taken to the airport to await transportation via helicopter to Port-au-Prince and even to the United States.

Much of Les Cayes is in ruins, but the airport remains largely intact, facilitating medical evacuation and the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian assistance.

Units from the US Coast Guard are here coordinating the evacuation effort and Washington has also dispatched a team of 65 rescue specialists to aid in the search for survivors amid the rubble.

Excavators and other heavy machinery were in action Monday removing debris and clearing roads.

Yet with Grace bearing down on southern Haiti, the more immediate concern for the tens of thousands of people in Les Cayes and the surrounding area whose homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the quake was figuring out where to shelter from the elements.

“From this Monday, we are going to act with greater rapidity. The management of aid will be accelerated. In terms of assistance, we will redouble our energy to reach the maximum possible number of victims,” Henry wrote on Twitter.

In a press conference late Monday after a Cabinet meeting, the prime minister said that his government would avoid a repeat of the botched recovery that followed the January 2010 temblor that killed as many as 300,000 people and led to persistent homelessness for tens of thousands.

“We have decided not to continue doing what was done in 2010 when donations were made to the country and funds were spent without seeing an impact,” he said.

The director of Civil Protection, Jerry Chandler, said during the same news briefing that aid is already pouring in from other countries in the region.

“We continue working with our friends in the international community. Many of them have offered to come to our assistance,” he said, mentioning the US, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti’s neighbor on the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic.

A plane carrying 16 tons of relief supplies from Chile is expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince late Monday. EFE mp-mmv-mm/dr

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