- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | A powerful aftershock sent Haitians screaming into the streets Wednesday, collapsing buildings, cracking roads and adding to the trauma of a nation stunned by an apocalyptic quake nine days ago.

The magnitude-5.9 jolt matched the strongest of the aftershocks that have followed the huge quake of Jan. 12 that devastated Haiti’s capital.

The new temblor collapsed seven buildings in Petit-Goave, the seaside town closest to the epicenter, according to Mike Morton of the U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination agency, but there were no reports of people crushed or trapped, perhaps because the earlier quake frightened most people into sleeping outside.

Wails of terror erupted in Port-au-Prince, where the aftershock briefly interrupted rescue efforts amid the broken concrete of collapsed buildings, and prompted doctors and patients to flee the University Hospital.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians remain homeless, hungry and in mourning — most still waiting for the benefits of a nearly $1 billion global aid campaign that has brought hundreds of doctors and thousands of troops to the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The U.S. Navy’s floating hospital, USNS Comfort, dropped anchor in view of the capital Wednesday with about 550 medical staff, joining teams from about 30 other countries trying to treat the injured. About 250,000 people were hurt in the quake and aid groups say many people have died for lack of medical care or adequate equipment.

And the Pentagon announced that 2,000 more U.S. Marines would be sent to Haiti, adding to the 11,500 U.S. military personnel already on the ground or on ships offshore — a number expected to reach 16,000 by week’s end.

At a golf course where U.S. troops have been trying to help 25,000 people living under sheets of plastic and old cloth, soldiers and quake victims alike raced for open ground as the quake began.

A slow vibration intensified into side-to-side shaking that lasted about eight seconds. Some in Port-au-Prince said the far stronger Jan. 12 quake seemed to last for 30 seconds.

“It kind of felt like standing on a board on top of a ball,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Payne, 27, from Jolo, W.Va., who was part of the U.S. Army’s aid mission.

At least one woman died of a heart attack, according to Eddy Thomas, a private undertaker who was wheeling her body along a street in Port-au-Prince: “She had a heart condition, and the new quake finished her.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said the aftershock was centered about 35 miles west-southwest of Port-au-Prince and 6.2 miles below the surface.

It was a little further from the capital than last week’s magnitude-7.0 quake, which killed an estimated 200,000 people and made as many as 2 million homeless, according to the European Union.

Wednesday’s temblor matched the strongest of 49 aftershocks of magnitude-4.5 or greater that have followed the Jan. 12 quake.

International aid teams have saved 121 people from the rubble, an unprecedented number, according to aid organizations.

A 69-year-old domestic worker, Ena Zizi, who spent a week under the rubble of the residence of Haiti’s Roman Catholic archbishop, was pulled to safety Tuesday by a Mexican disaster team. Elsewhere in the capital, two women were pulled from a destroyed university building. And near midnight Tuesday, a smiling and singing 26-year-old Lozama Hotteline was carried to safety from a collapsed store in the Petionville neighborhood by the French aid group Rescuers Without Borders.

Yet the colossal efforts to help Haiti were proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster.

Aid is still being turned back from the single-runway airport, where the U.S. military has been criticized by some of poorly prioritizing flights. The U.S. Air Force said it had raised the facility’s daily capacity from 30 flights before the quake to 180.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the military will send a port-clearing ship with cranes aboard to Port-au-Prince to remove debris that is preventing many larger aid ships from docking.

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