- The Washington Times - Friday, January 29, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | A 16-year-old girl pulled from the rubble more than two weeks after a deadly earthquake was in stable condition Thursday, able to eat yogurt and mashed vegetables to the surprise of doctors, who said her survival was medically inexplicable.

Hundreds of thousands of other survivors hoped for a breakthrough of another kind - the delivery of badly needed food aid.

Key players in the Haiti earthquake relief effort, in what may prove to be a pivotal meeting Wednesday, decided to better coordinate by dividing up the shattered capital, giving each responsibility for handing out food in certain areas.

Food distribution thus far has often been marked by poor coordination, vast gaps in coverage, and desperate, unruly lines of needy people in which young men at times shoved aside the women and weak and took their food.

“These things should be done in a systematic way, not a random way,” Dr. Eddy Delalue, who runs a Haitian relief group, Operation Hope, said Wednesday of the emergency food program. “It’s survival of the fittest: The strongest guy gets it.”

Wednesday’s rescue of teenager Darlene Etienne from a collapsed home near St. Gerard University, 15 days after Haiti’s great quake killed an estimated 200,000 people, was the first such recovery since Saturday, when French rescuers extricated a man from the ruins of a hotel grocery store.

Darlene is stable, drinking water and eating yogurt and mashed vegetables, said Dr. Evelyne Lambert, who has been treating the girl on the French Navy hospital ship Sirocco, anchored off the shore of Port-au-Prince.

Dr. Lambert said Darlene has a 90 percent chance of survival.

“We cannot really explain this because that’s just [against] biological facts,” Dr. Lambert told reporters. “We are very surprised by the fact that she’s alive. … She’s saying that she has been under the ground since the very beginning on the 12th of January so it may have really happened - but we cannot explain that.”

Darlene may have had some access to water from a bathroom of the wrecked house, and rescuers said she mumbled something about having a little Coca-Cola with her in the rubble.

Her family said Darlene had just begun studies at St. Gerard when the disaster struck, trapping dozens of students and staff in the rubble of school buildings, hostels and nearby homes. “We thought she was dead,” said cousin Jocelyn A. St. Jules.

Then - a half-month after the earthquake - neighbors heard a voice weakly calling from the rubble of a private home down the road from the destroyed university. They called authorities, who brought in the French civil response team.

French search and rescue team member Dr. Claude Fuilla walked along the dangerously crumbled roof, heard her voice and saw a little bit of dust-covered black hair in the rubble. Clearing away some debris, he reached the young woman and saw she was alive - barely.

Digging out a hole big enough to give her oxygen and water, they found she had a very weak pulse. Within 45 minutes they managed to remove her, covered in dust.

At least 135 people buried in rubble have been rescued by search teams since the quake, most in the immediate aftermath.

An Israeli team that earned international praise for its rescue efforts in Haiti returned home Thursday with a 5-year-old boy in need of urgent heart surgery.

Back in Haiti, the United Nations World Food Program urgently appealed to governments for more cash for Haiti supplies - $800 million to feed 2 million people through December, more than quadruple the $196 million already pledged.

With the country still barely functioning, Haitian President Rene Preval canceled legislative elections scheduled for next month. The Parliament building partially collapsed in the earthquake, killing one senator, and other candidates also died in the disaster.

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