Disasters & Accidents

Time running out in Haiti’s search for survivors a week after quake

By Maria Montecelos

Les Cayes, Haiti, Aug 21 (EFE).- Hope of finding people alive amid the rubble from the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that slammed southern Haiti a week ago dimmed on Saturday as desperation among those left homeless and hungry intensified.

Authorities have not updated the casualty figures since Wednesday, when the death toll stood at 2,189 and the number of injured was 12,268.

Los Topos (The Moles), a group of experienced rescuers from Mexico, attracted a crowd of hundreds of onlookers Saturday as they searched the wreckage of a house here in Les Cayes, the largest population center in the affected area.

The team began work Friday night after a scanner detected what appeared to be four people alive under the ruins.

Los Topos spent 16 hours – including a pause for heavy machinery to clear debris – at the site before concluding that the scanner had misled them.

Even so, the group’s leader told Efe that he was optimistic of finding more survivors, emphasizing the “toughness” of Haitians.

“This was demonstrated in the 2010 earthquake, when after more than a week, old people came out and students came out, teachers came out,” Luis Alba said, referring to what he saw 11 years ago following a temblor that killed as many as 300,000 people.

For the second straight day, trucks carrying aid meant for quake victims were attacked and looted.

On the grounds of Saint-Jean-des-Cayes, a school in Les Cayes, a violent mob broke into a truck and seized mineral water, pasta and condensed milk, among other items, before being caught on camera hurling glass bottles at journalists.

Donations continue to poor into Haiti from foreign governments and international organizations, yet the process of getting the aid to the 650,000 people in need or urgent assistance remains slow and disorganized.

The earthquake destroyed nearly 53,000 homes and damaged more than 77,000 others, forcing many people to sleep in the open as southern Haiti was drenched this week by rains from Tropical Storm Grace.

Authorities in Les Cayes have set up a temporary encampment at a sports stadium and makeshift tents line many streets as even people whose homes remain habitable prefer to sleep outside amid the continuing aftershocks. EFE mmv-mm/dr

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