Haiti's mass graves swell; Womack sends supplies

Posted January 21, 2010

— Workers are carving out mass graves on a hillside north of Haiti's capital, using earth-movers to bury 10,000 earthquake victims in a single day while relief workers warn the death toll could increase.

Medical clinics have 12-day patient backlogs, untreated injuries are festering and makeshift camps housing thousands of survivors could foster disease, experts said.

"The next health risk could include outbreaks of diarrhea, respiratory tract infections and other diseases among hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in overcrowded camps with poor or nonexistent sanitation," said Dr. Greg Elder, deputy operations manager for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti.

Womack helps provide medical supplies

Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg is helping provide medical supplies for deploying units to take to Haiti.

Medical Center has received several shipments of trucks with supplies. Workers are sending masks, gloves, pharmaceuticals and hand sanitizers to the country.

“It’s very important to keep our people healthy so they can continue to provide humanitarian assistant that is so desperately needed in Haiti right now,” said Lt. Col. Tony Lopiccolo, director of logistics at Womack.

Many employees worked 24 hour shifts to help support the relief efforts of the unit, officials said.

Death toll estimated at 200,000 

The death toll is estimated at 200,000, according to Haitian government figures relayed by the European Commission, with 80,000 buried in mass graves. The commission now estimates 2 million homeless.

Getting help in is still a challenge. Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command running Haiti's airports said Thursday that 1,400 flights are on a waiting list for slots at the Port-au-Prince airport that can handle 120 to 140 flights a day.

In the sparsely populated wasteland of Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, burial workers on Wednesday said the macabre task of handling the never-ending flow of bodies was traumatizing.

"I have seen so many children, so many children. I cannot sleep at night and, if I do, it is a constant nightmare," said Foultone Fequiert, 38, his face covered with a T-shirt against the overwhelming stench.

The dead stick out at all angles from the mass graves - tall mounds of chalky dirt, the limbs of men, women and children frozen together in death. "I received 10,000 bodies yesterday alone," said Fequiert.

Workers say they have no time to give the dead proper religious burials or follow pleas from the international community that bodies be buried in shallow graves from which loved ones might eventually retrieve them.

"We just dump them in, and fill it up," said Luckner Clerzier, 39, who was helping guide trucks to another grave site farther up the road.

An Associated Press reporter counted 15 burial mounds at Clerzier's site, each covering a wide trench cut into the ground some 25 feet deep, and rising 15 feet into the air. At the larger mass grave, where Fequiert toiled, three earth-moving machines cut long trenches into the earth, readying them for more cadavers.

Others struggle to stem the flow of the dead.

Dogs, equipment help find dead

More than eight days after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake, rescuers searched late into the night for survivors with dogs and sonar equipment. A Los Angeles County rescue team sent three dogs separately into the rubble on a street corner in Petionville, a suburb overlooking Port-au-Prince. Each dog picked up the scent of life at one spot.

They tested the spot and screamed into the rubble in Creole they've learned: "If you hear me, bang three times."

They heard no response, but vowed to continue.

"It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and each day the needles are disappearing," team member Steven Chin said.

One rescue was reported. The International Medical Corps said it was caring for a child found in ruins Wednesday. The boy's uncle told doctors and a nurse with the Los Angeles-based organization that relatives pulled the 5-year-old from the wreckage of his home after searching for a week, said Margaret Aguirre, an IMC spokeswoman in Haiti.

A Dutch adoption agency said Thursday that a mercy flight carrying 106 adopted children was on its way to the Netherlands from Port-au-Prince. The children on board the plane were all in the process of being adopted and already had been matched to new Dutch parents before the quake.

At the Mission Baptiste hospital south of Port-au-Prince, patients waited on benches or rolling beds while doctors and nurses raced among them, X-rays in hand.

The hospital had just received badly need supplies from soldiers of the U.S Army's 82nd Airborne Division, but hospital director John Angus said there wasn't enough. He pleaded for more doctors, casts and metal plates to fix broken limbs.

Meanwhile, a flotilla of rescue vessels led by the U.S. hospital ship Comfort steamed into Port-au-Prince harbor Wednesday to help fill gaps in the struggling global effort to deliver water, food and medical help.

Elder, of Doctors Without Borders, said that patients were dying of sepsis from untreated wounds and that some of the group's posts had 10- to 12-day backups of patients.

Aftershocks again shake Haiti

Two aftershocks has again rattled Haiti's capital, sending rescue teams scrambling off precarious piles of rubble and already traumatized residents fleeing into the streets yet again.

There are no immediate reports of damage from either temblor. The U.S. Geological Survey has given a preliminary magnitude estimate of 4.9 for one that hit at 11:45 a.m. Thursday.

Haiti has been hit by at least 50 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater since the Jan. 12 quake that devastated the capital.

None has caused significant damage, but they have hampered relief efforts and added to a sense of doom among the shellshocked populace.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 22, 2010

    silverflash, if someone could have prevented 200,000 men, women and children from dying...150,000 from being maimed...and an entire city leveled that displaced another 1.5 million... BUT DID NOTHING...then this person or thing deserves to be "dissed". If not, why not? Any human would be brought up on "Crimes Against Humanity".

    And, your comment about preparing for a larger scale disaster is a good point. The United Nations works towards just this sort of thing...bringing countries together to: improve our world, know our neighbors better and globally prepare for situations like this.

  • silverflash Jan 21, 2010

    wow. so many people dissing God on here.

    God may or may not "caused" this or didn't stop it from happening but he's God. He has his reasons and you all are questioning him.

    Do these people deserve this? I would be inclined to say no. Does that even matter? Probably not but I can't speak for God nor do I even think I can or should.

    Things will happen and this is a disaster. Now is the time to help these people. Think about this though. This tiny little country has a disaster and we can't get a grip. What happens when/if we have a larger disaster like an asteroid strike that wipes out paris or boston?? How can we even think about handling something on that scale?

    This is just a sanity check showing we are not all that prepared for anything....

  • wildcat Jan 21, 2010

    This is just awful in how they have to bury their deceased. They need help with this also. Continue to pray and help for this country.

  • John Sawtooth Jan 21, 2010

    I don't find it necessary to compare my religious beliefs with events like this. How can I presume to understand an incomprehensible super-deity's acts or motivations and plans in the context of an huge and incomprehensible earthly event ?

    I found it better to respond in the best charitable way I can to aid these people, and leave religion out of it for my part. I won't denigrate those who view this event via their religious views; whatever works best to help grasp it mentally, or focus our effort on helping those in need.

  • Garnerian Jan 21, 2010

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are those who mourn,for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,for they will be filled.
    Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the pure in heart,for they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • Think_About_This Jan 21, 2010

    Thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors. Heartfelt appreciation goes out to those who are in Haiti making a difference.

  • Bendal1 Jan 21, 2010

    Also, why do believers immediately say "god saved those people" when someone manages to survive being buried more than a week in rubble, but refuse to believe god caused the earthquake in the first place? Saying "it's not our place to understand" is just believers turning their brains off and refusing to face that issue.

  • Iworkforaliving Jan 21, 2010

    How many thousands of years do these people need before they learn to take care of themselves? Or should the US just take care of every nation on earth who chooses to breed non-stop and live in squalor?

  • froggytroat Jan 21, 2010

    Convoluted way for a deity to help those he loves, for sure.

  • mildredmitchell Jan 21, 2010

    No... God wasn't asleep. I'm sure he answered many prayers - there were lots of miracles. The saying "Every cloud has a silver lining" might sound crazy and corney, but I believe it. It has happened to me several times. Those people were poor and made do with very little before this happened. But did the world come to their aid then? Before this happened, I never would have picked up my phone, etc., and made a donation to Haiti. Yes... people do, can, and should help people.