We in Pakistan mourn the loss of life in Haiti and hope our common humanity will endure this gravest of tragedies. For many of us this isreminiscent of the 2005 quake.
The US is planning a massive military response to the disaster, saying that ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member Marine unit are either on the way or likely to begin moving soon. But their arrival may be too late for thousands of Port-au-Prince residents.
It is estimated that between 50,000 to 100,000 people died in the quake, but Haitian senator Youri Latortue said the final figure could reach half a million.
There are as yet no co-ordinated efforts under way to rescue people trapped in the rubble, and medical help for the injured is scarce.
A four-man team from the British Government and 71 rescue specialists with dogs and heavy equipment arrived shortly after 7am and will travel to Port-au-Prince later today.
Rene Preval, the president of Haiti, is among the millions left homeless after his home and the presidential palace were destroyed.
One report says up to 10 Britons are among the dead. Douglas Alexander, the secretary of state for international development, said there were thought to be 32 British nationals living in Port-au-Prince – half of whom had yet to make contact with the UK’s ambassador to Haiti.
“There are no indications of British casualties,” he added.
He said he would later today launch a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal to raise money for victims of the quake.
He said: “(Haiti) is a desperately difficult country. About half the population lives on less than a dollar a day, and the scenes we witnessed yesterday would challenge even the strongest of governments.”
Preval, unsure of where he would sleep after his home and the presidential palace were destroyed, painted a scene of utter devastation.
Gareth Owen, emergencies director at Save the Children, said: “Our current planning assumption is a very serious emergency.
“Our biggest challenge at the moment is going to be logistics because currently the airport is out of action.”
Only about half of the charity’s 60 staff in the country had been accounted for, he said.
On the streets of the capital, cries for help could be heard coming from under collapsed buildings, but there were no diggers, no ambulances and no fire engines to be seen.
“This is much worse than a hurricane,” said doctors’ assistant Jimitre Coquillon. “There’s no water. There’s nothing. Thirsty people are going to die.”
Without the help of the emergency services, lone men with sledgehammers were left to batter at slabs of debris in collapsed buildings, trying to break through to look for survivors.
Scattered bodies were laid out on pavements, wrapped neatly in sheets and blankets.
One woman buried in the debris called out for help: “Please take me out, I am dying. I have two children with me.”
Hospitals, many of them either destroyed or damaged, have struggled to cope with a flow of wounded as basic services such as power and water as well as medical supplies dwindled.
And as the morgues began to overflow, there were fears that disease could soon break out if corpses were left to fester.
Doctors Without Borders found two public hospitals in good condition and officials with the group said they would begin treating about 500 people who need emergency surgery.
But one of the mission’s directors said the humanitarian group doesn’t have enough medical staff, equipment and medicine to properly care for the injured. The mission has about 800 medical workers in Haiti, but a large number haven’t been located since Tuesday’s quake, Stefano Zannini said.
“Most of them are dispersed somewhere, are lost somewhere,” he said.
“We are not sure where they are.”
About 800 injured people have come to the mission’s offices for treatment, Mr Zannini said. They’ve scattered themselves around a courtyard, sleeping in tents, on top of rugs, on the floor and on plastic sheeting, waiting to be transferred to one of the two hospitals identified as being safe enough to withstand the aftershocks that have rattled Haiti.
“We saw every kind of person: Women, men, young, old, children, pregnant women coming and asking for help,” he said.
More than 500 people need immediate surgical intervention. But in the next couple of days, the mission will run out of gasoline to transport patients and food and water, Mr Zannini said.
Doctors Without Borders said earlier in the day that hundreds of Haitians were being treated in tents for broken bones, burns and other less-serious injuries.
In the Saint Honore street, a man covered from head-to-toe was trapped outside the wreckage of a car, standing up and unable to free his foot for the past 24 hours as his helpless friends and family looked on. He seemed to show signs of internal bleeding, but there was no medical aid nearby.
“He will die before we can get him out,” a man at the scene said.
President Preval said: “All the morgues are full, the hospitals are overflowing, there is not enough medicines.”
One young man yelled at reporters in English: “Too many people are dying. We need international help … no emergency, no food, no phone, no water, no nothing.”
Haitian Red Cross spokesman Pericles Jean-Baptiste said his organisation was overwhelmed and out of medicine. “There are too many people who need help. … We lack equipment, we lack body bags,” he said.
Normal communications were cut off, roads were blocked by rubble and trees, electric power was interrupted and water was in short supply.
The only lights visible in the city came from solar-powered traffic signals.
Police officers turned their pickup trucks into ambulances to carry the injured.
Other survivors carried injured to hospitals in wheelbarrows and on stretchers fashioned from doors.
Nearby, about 200 survivors, including many children, huddled in a theatre car park using sheets to rig makeshift tents and shield themselves from the sun in 90-degree heat.
About 3,000 police and international peacekeepers cleared debris, directed traffic and maintained security in the capital. But law enforcement was stretched thin even before the quake and would be ill-equipped to deal with major unrest.
President Preval painted a scene of utter devastation. “Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed,” he told the Miami Herald.
Courtesy : Telegraph