- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 14, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | Piles of bloodied, twisted bodies lay abandoned in the Haitian capital as the moans of thousands feared to be trapped after a massive quake rang out plaintively from the city’s ruins.

With dusk setting in, traumatized and grief-stricken residents of Port-au-Prince prepared for a second night in the open after Tuesday’s powerful quake, amid fears that the death toll could reach 100,000 or higher.

Despite the launch of a massive international aid operation, foreign rescue workers had yet to arrive on the streets here, leaving the grim search for survivors to the battered and bruised Haitians already distraught at scenes of carnage and devastation.

Lacking heavy equipment, residents of the poorest nation in the Americas frantically dug with their bare hands in a race against time to reach the victims in the city that bore the worst of the 7.0 quake.

The normally gleaming-white presidential palace on the central Champs de Mars square was in ruins, its central cupola now a collapsed symbol of a nation upended. The United Nations mission’s headquarters building also collapsed, with dozens of U.N. employees missing and feared dead.

Drivers helped ferry the dead and the wounded, everyone pitching in to help the neighbors in the bleakest hours of the Caribbean nation.

Hospitals, many of them either collapsed or damaged, were struggling to cope with a flow of wounded as basic services such as power and water as well as medical supplies dwindled.

Many bodies were left crumpled in the ruins as the morgues began to overflow. There were fears that amid the sticky tropical climate disease could soon break out if corpses are left to fester.

“We need help. The hospital is full, we are lacking in everything,” said one woman on a radio station, highlighting that the wounded were left lying next to the dead.

President Rene Preval told reporters that “all the morgues are full, the hospitals are overflowing, there is not enough medicines.”

Medical staff said they were completely overwhelmed. “Everywhere we go, there’s a massive demand from people to help them with trapped family members or people suffering from major injuries,” said Paul McPhun, the Toronto-based spokesman for Doctors Without Borders.

“Teams are basically managing what comes to them. They are already getting overwhelmed,” he said. “All of our health structures are either condemned or collapsed, so we can’t use them.”

Hours after the quake wrecked even the capital’s most sturdy buildings, the dust and debris-covered city was hit by dozens of powerful aftershocks.

Two million people live in the densely populated capital of the impoverished Caribbean nation, many of them crammed into flimsy shantytowns thrown up around the coastal town and perched on its hillsides.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who toured the slum areas on Tuesday and again Wednesday, told CNN that the final death toll could be “well over 100,000.”

“I hope that is not true, because I hope the people had the time to get out,” he said. “Because we have so much people on the streets right now, we don’t know exactly where they were living.”

Dozens of gravely injured Haitians were seeking refuge and medical attention in neighboring Dominican Republic.

Buses from Port-au-Prince arrived at the General Meleciano Hospital, carrying injured children, women, men and the elderly, many with fractured skulls and broken limbs.

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