Search for survivors continues after earthquake

Monday, August 16, 2021

LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) — Rescuers and scrap metal scavengers dug into the floors of a collapsed hotel Monday in this quake-ravaged coastal town, where 15 bodies had already been extracted. Jean Moise Fortunè, whose brother, the hotel owner, was killed in the quake, believed there were more people trapped in the rubble.

But based on the size of voids that workers cautiously peered into, perhaps a foot (0.3 meters) in depth, finding survivors appeared unlikely.

The quake, centered about 125 kilometers (80 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, killed at least 1,297 people as it nearly razed some towns and triggered landslides that hampered rescue efforts in a country that is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti already was struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, gang violence, worsening poverty and the political uncertainty following the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

And the devastation could soon worsen with the coming of Tropical Depression Grace, which was predicted to reach Haiti on Monday night. The country’s Civil Protection Agency said strong winds, heavy rain, rough seas, mudslides and flash flooding were expected. Rainfall amounts could reach 15 inches (38 centimeters) in some areas.

While residents of Les Cayes carted away twisted heaps of scrap metal to earn some money, families who lost their homes camped out in soccer field, using sheets and sticks to erect a bit of shade, and gathering to receive food distributed from a truck.

Injured earthquake victims continued to stream into Les Cayes’ overwhelmed general hospital, three days after the earthquake struck Saturday. Patients waited to be treated on stair steps, in corridors and the hospital’s open veranda.

“After two days, they are almost always generally infected,” said Dr. Paurus Michelete, who had treated 250 patients and was one of only three doctors on call when the quake hit. “That makes it hard on us.”

The magnitude 7.2 earthquake left at least 5,700 people injured, with thousands more displaced from destroyed or damaged homes. Les Cayes was darkened by intermittent blackouts, and many people slept outside, clutching transistor radios tuned to news, terrified of the continuing aftershocks.

Efforts to treat the injured were difficult at the hospital, where Michelete said pain killers, analgesics and steel pins to mend fractures were running out amid the crush of patients.

“We are saturated, and people keep coming in,” he said.

Josil Eliophane, 84, crouched on the steps of the hospital, clutching an X-ray showing his shattered arm bone and pleading for pain medication.

Michelete said he would give one of his few remaining shots to Eliophane, who was injured when he ran out of his house as the quake hit, only to have a wall fall on him.

Nearby, on the hospital’s open-air veranda, patients were on beds and mattresses, hooked up to IV bags of saline fluid. Others lay on the garden just beyond, under bed sheets erected to shield them from the brutal sun. None of the patients or relatives caring for them wore face masks amid a coronavirus surge, and all could be drenched by the impending rain.

Officials said more than 7,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 5,000 damaged from the quake, leaving some 30,000 families homeless. Hospitals, schools, offices and churches also were destroyed or badly damaged.

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