Girl pulled from rubble eights days on

2010-01-20 15:06

Yesterday neighbours in Port-au-Prince managed to pull an 11-year-old girl out from under the rubble, eight days after a massive earthquake, medical workers said.

A 69-year-old Roman Catholic who said she prayed constantly during

her week under the rubble was among the unlikely survivors of the epic Haitian

earthquake.

One full week after the magnitude-7 quake killed an estimated 200

000, left 250 000 injured and made 1.5 million homeless, search-and-rescue teams

were emerging from the ruins with improbable success stories. Experts have said

that without water, buried quake victims were unlikely to survive beyond three

days.

Ena Zizi had been at a church meeting at the residence of Haiti’s

Roman Catholic archbishop when the quake struck, trapping her in debris. yesterday,

she was rescued by a Mexican disaster team that was created in the wake of

Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake.

Zizi said that after the quake, she spoke back and forth with a

vicar who also was trapped. But after a few days, he fell silent, and she spent

the rest of the time praying and waiting.

“I talked only to my boss, God,” she said. “And I didn’t need any

more humans.”

Doctors who examined Zizi on Tuesday said she was dehydrated and had

a dislocated hip and a broken leg.

“I’m all right, sort of,” she said, lying on a foil thermal blanket

outside the Cuban hospital, her gray hair covered in white dust.

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.

Crews at the cathedral compound site Tuesday managed to recover the

body of the archbishop, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, who was killed in the Jan.

12 quake.

Authorities said close to 100 people had been pulled from wrecked

buildings by international search-and-rescue teams. Efforts continued, with

dozens of teams sifting through Port-au-Prince’s crumbled homes and buildings

for signs of life.

But the good news was overshadowed by the frustrating fact that the

world still can’t get enough food and water to the hungry and thirsty.

“We need so much. Food, clothes, we need everything. I don’t know

whose responsibility it is, but they need to give us something soon,” said

Sophia Eltime, a 29-year-old mother of two who has been living under a bedsheet

with seven members of her extended family.

The World Food Program said more than 250,000 ready-to-eat food

rations had been distributed in Haiti by Tuesday, reaching only a fraction of

the 3 million people thought to be in desperate need. There have been anecdotal

reports of starvation among the old and infirm, but apparently no widespread

starvation yet.

The WFP said it needs to deliver 100 million ready-to-eat rations

in the next 30 days. Based on pledges from the United States, Italy and Denmark,

it has 16 million in the pipeline.

Even as U.S. troops landed in Seahawk helicopters on the manicured

lawn of the ruined National Palace, the colossal efforts to help Haiti were

proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster and the limitations of

the world’s governments. Expectations exceeded what money, will and military

might have been able to achieve.

So far, international relief efforts have been unorganized,

disjointed and insufficient to satisfy the great need. Doctors Without Borders

says a plane carrying urgently needed surgical equipment and drugs has been

turned away five times, even though the agency received advance authorization to

land.

A statement from Partners in Health, co-founded by the deputy U.N.

envoy to Haiti, Dr. Paul Farmer, said the group’s medical director estimated

20,000 people are dying each day who could be saved by surgery. No details were

provided on how the figure was determined.

“TENS OF THOUSANDS OF EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS NEED EMERGENCY SURGICAL

CARE NOW!!!!!” Farmer said in the statement.

The reasons are varied:

- Both national and international authorities suffered great losses

in the quake, taking out many of the leaders best suited to organize a

response.

- Woefully inadequate infrastructure and a near-complete failure in

telephone and Internet communications complicate efforts to reach millions of

people forced from homes turned into piles of rubble.

- Fears of looting and violence keep aid groups and governments

from moving as quickly as they’d like.

- Pre-existing poverty and malnutrition put some at risk even

before the quake hit.

Governments have pledged nearly $1 billion in aid, and thousands of

tons of food and medical supplies have been shipped. But much remains trapped in

warehouses, or diverted to the neighboring Dominican Republic. The

nonfunctioning seaport and impassable roads complicate efforts to get aid to the

people.

Aid is 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 Tuesday it had raised the facility’s daily capacity from 30

flights before the quake to 180 on Tuesday.

About 2,200 U.S. Marines established a beachhead west of

Port-au-Prince on Tuesday to help speed aid delivery, in addition to 9,000 Army

soldiers already on the ground. Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military

spokesman, said helicopters were ferrying aid from the airport into

Port-au-Prince and the nearby town of Jacmel as fast as they could.

The U.N. was sending in reinforcements as well: The Security

Council voted Tuesday to add 2,000 peacekeepers to the 7,000 already in Haiti,

and 1,500 more police to the 2,100-strong international force.

“The floodgates for aid are starting to open,” Matthews said at the

airport. “In the first few days, you’re limited by manpower, but we’re starting

to bring people in.”

The WFP’s Alain Jaffre said the U.N. agency was starting to find

its stride after distribution problems, and hoped to help 100,000 people by

Wednesday.

Hanging over the entire effort was an overwhelming fear among

relief officials that Haitians’ desperation would boil over into violence.

“We’ve very concerned about the level of security we need around

our people when we’re doing distributions,” said Graham Tardif, who heads

disaster-relief efforts for the charity World Vision. The U.N., the U.S.

government and other organizations echoed such fears.

Occasionally, those fears have been borne out. Looters rampaged

through part of downtown Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, just four blocks from where

U.S. troops landed at the presidential palace.

Hundreds of looters fought over bolts of cloth and other goods with

broken bottles and clubs.

“That is how it is. There is nothing we can do,” said Haitian

police officer Arina Bence, who was trying to keep civilians out of the looting

zone for their own safety.

Haitian Police Chief Mario Andersol said he could muster only 2,000

of the 4,500 officers in the capital and said even they “are not trained to deal

with this kind of situation.”

---

Associated Press writers contributing include Paul Haven, Michael

Melia, Jonathan M. Katz, Michelle Faul and Vivian Sequera in Port-au-Prince;

medical writer Margie Mason in Hanoi, Vietnam; Charles J. Hanley in Mexico City;

Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; and

Seth Borenstein, Pauline Jelinek, Anne Flaherty and Jennifer Loven in

Washington.

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