Search for survivors ends, toll at 1,11,000
The Haitian government declared the search-and-rescue phase over Saturday as the first official estimate put the toll from the devastating earthquake at more than 111,000 people.world Updated: Jan 24, 2010 10:04 IST
The Haitian government declared the search-and-rescue phase over Saturday as the first official estimate put the toll from the devastating earthquake at more than 111,000 people.
Yet even as the search slowed and the emphasis turned to relief operations, television broadcaster CNN reported a young man was found alive under the rubble of Hotel Napoli in Port-au-Prince, 11 days after the earthquake left much of the Haitian capital in ruins.
French, Greek and US rescue teams were on the scene.
International search teams recorded 132 people rescued since the magnitude-7 quake struck the impoverished Caribbean nation on Jan 12, the UN said. Untold more were pulled out by fellow Haitians digging mostly with their hands.
A massive international effort underway in Haiti now refocuses entirely helping survivors, though there could still be some limited efforts to look for people in the rubble.
To date, the Haitian government counted 111,481 confirmed deaths across the country, which was already the poorest in the Western hemisphere.
Earlier Saturday, about 1,000 people gathered outside the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince for the funeral of Haiti's archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, which became a ceremony for all those Haitians who had no means to properly mourn their lost relatives and friends. Most of the dead have gone into mass graves.
"We ask God that for all those that encountered death with this earthquake, that you console their families, who in many cases could not offer a dignified burial to their loved ones," Louis Kebreau, head of Haiti's conference of bishops, offered in prayer during the funeral mass.
President Rene Preval, seated with his wife, Elizabeth, was among the mourners in a rare public appearance since the earthquake. Some people followed Preval after the ceremony, protesting and even chanting the name of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted from power in 2004.
Mourners also paid tribute to Charles Benoit, vicar general of the Port-au-Prince diocese, whose body was also found in the ruins of the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption cathedral. His white casket stood alongside that of Miot.
People with means, meanwhile, were being encouraged to seek accommodations beyond the capital. According to UN estimates, about 1 million people might be fleeing the city for the countryside.
Shelter for Haiti's more than 600,000 homeless was a primary concern for the UN, along with an "overwhelming" number of people with untreated injuries.
Now that the initial emergency has passed, staff with Doctors Without Borders said survivors of the earthquake were in desperate need of medical specialists, such as physical therapists and especially psychologists.
"The whole situation is still very chaotic," Anja Wolz, an emergency coordinator for German staff with Doctors Without Borders, told the DPA.
"We have treated about 5,500 patients so far and performed about 1,000 operations."
Most patients her group has helped remain traumatized after the disaster, and sanitary issues in overcrowded camps remain a problem, she said.
Doctors Without Borders warned of increasing tensions and a rise in the number of wounded from gunshots and machete attacks in some slums, which were plagued by violence even prior to the earthquake.
Meanwhile, the UN reported improvements in the massive effort to get aid to those in need, including food and medicine.
The Port-au-Prince airport was pulsing with US Navy helicopters in a non-stop airlift of food and other aid across the country as international officials started considering how best to rebuild the flattened capital.
Officials from 20 nations were set to meet Monday in Montreal to lay plans for coordinating aid to quake-stricken Haiti and set the groundwork for a possible March donor's conference for long-term rebuilding.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have announced plans to boycott the meeting, saying they oppose the heavy US military presence in the Caribbean.
The US has sent massive amounts of resources including troops into the country, coordinating relief efforts with the UN and other relief agencies.