Hope and despair contend in Haiti following 6.1 aftershock

Hope and despair contend in Haiti following 6.1 aftershock

By staff writers
20 Jan 2010

While battered Haitians were recovering from a 6.1 aftershock a week after the massive 7.0 earthquake that has devastated the country, news came through that the aid effort is becoming more effective, though significant problems remain.

The extent of the damage caused by the aftershock is not yet known. The US Geological Survey said the tremor was centered 35 miles north-west of the capital. It struck at a depth of 6.2 miles, but fortunately it was too far inland to generate any tsunamis in the Caribbean.

Via satellite phone, Virgil Troyer reported that Mennonite Central Committee team members he was able to contact are fine following the aftershock. Like their Haitian neighbours, team members have sleeping outdoors at various locations around the city, fearing further building damage from additional tremors.

There have also been remarkable recoveries of people from the rubble over the last 36 hours - small signs of hope and encouragement in the face of a huge catastrophe, said a Christian Aid worker on the spot.

An Oxfam representative told the BBC this evening that they were "frustrated" that attempts to get much-needed water supplies through to victims living in temporary shelters had been hampered by lack of fuel.

But relief efforts of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are gathering pace, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Simon Schorno, ICRC spokesman in Port-au-Prince, reports that life in the makeshift camps housing tens of thousands of earthquake survivors remains difficult: "Hygiene is a problem even if the people and in some cases the local authorities have started to organise to find water or to collect trash."

"Many people tell me they have run out of cash or are about to, that the price of vegetables and bread is skyrocketing and that they would not survive if they did not pool their resources with others," said Mr Schorno.

He added: "Many look for work, like the young men who line up at the gates of international organisations hoping to get day jobs. In the Place de Champs-de-Mars, coal vendors seem to be doing brisk business selling to families living in makeshift camps who use small tin barbecues to cook. [Business people] are offering to recharge mobile phones or are renting them out for a fee."

ICRC health teams have also reached Petit-Goâve, a coastal town some 70 kilometres south-west of Port-au-Prince, where they set up two first-aid posts that are now being staffed by Haitian Red Cross volunteers, and have delivered much-needed first-aid kits to treat up to 500 patients.

An ICRC team also went to Léogane, a city south-west of the capital, for a second time. "Unfortunately there is as much suffering in Léogane as there is in Port-au-Prince," said Hassan Nasreddine, the ICRC surgeon who led the health team. "So far, many patients in Léogane could not be treated because the city's main hospital lacks everything." The Red Cross will deliver medical supplies to the city in the coming days.

In Port-au-Prince, more medical supplies have been delivered to the Hôpital de la Paix and to the Haitian Red Cross first-aid post in the shantytown of Martissant.

An estimated 200,000 people died in the original quake and another 1.5 million were made homeless.

However, relief teams are still rescuing people alive from the rubble, including a 69-year-old woman pulled from the ruins of a church in the capital and a child recovered, incredibly, after a week buried in debris.

Anna Zizi was rescued on Tuesday 19 January about 3.30pm local time from the wreckage of a priest's residence at the main Roman Catholic Cathedral in Port-au-Prince.

She was brought out on a stretcher but was singing when she emerged, said Sarah Wilson, of Christian Aid. She was put on a drip and taken to hospital on the back of a truck.

Wilson watched as the firefighters finally rescued the woman after working for days among the wrecked buildings.

"It was an amazing thing to witness, no one could believe she was still alive," said Wilson, who is working with an assessment team that is part of the ACT alliance, an international grouping of faith-based charities.

"It seems rescuers were communicating with her and managing to get water to her through a tube. She was singing when she emerged. Everyone clapped and cheered," she said.

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Those wishing to donate to Christian Aid's Haiti appeal on-line should go to www.christianaid.org.uk/haiti-appeal

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