'The Sound of Screaming Is Constant'–Haiti Devastated by Massive Earthquake, Desperate Search for Survivors Continues
The death toll rises as Haiti is crushed by a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Bodies lie in the streets as people continue to cry out from underneath the rubble. Little aid has come in as the situation becomes increasingly desperate. The number of dead is almost certainly in the tens of thousands but could be 100,000 or more. We go to Port-au-Prince to get a report from a young American father who is helping to care for the injured in the hotel where he was staying when the quake struck.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In Haiti, the scale of the devastation following Tuesday’s massive earthquake is staggering. The death toll is unknown. It almost certainly will reach into the tens of thousands but could possibly be 100,000 or more. Bodies lie in the streets and collapsed buildings, and the cries of people buried beneath the rubble continue to ring out. The situation is increasingly desperate, with no coordinated rescue plan so far and aid only trickling in. A desperate search for survivors continues, but rescuers lack heavy lifting equipment and are often using their bare hands.
Much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince has been leveled, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. The city’s infrastructure took a blow of incalculable proportions as hospitals, schools, hotels and markets have crumbled. The main prison also collapsed, as did several Roman Catholic Archdiocese buildings. The city’s archbishop is believed to be dead. The chief of the UN mission remains missing. President René Préval described stepping over bodies and hearing the cries of those trapped under the rubble of the national Parliament.
The World Health Organization said it had sent specialists to help clear the city of corpses, and the International Red Cross was sending a plane loaded mainly with body bags. Medicine, food and water are in short supply. And Haitians are desperate for aid.
HAITIAN MAN 1: We need help. We need help, international help. We ain’t got no help.
HAITIAN MAN 2: There are not agents.
HAITIAN MAN 1: Yeah, we need agents. We need emergency. There is no help, no hospital, no electricity, nothing. No food, no phone, no food, no water, nothing. There are too many people dying.
AMY GOODMAN: The 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck close to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday about ten miles from Port-au-Prince. It was Haiti’s worst earthquake in 200 years. Dozens of aftershocks measuring up to 5.9 in magnitude have rattled Port-au-Prince. Many people are gathered in parks, either sleeping on the ground or under makeshift tents as they wait for aid to arrive.
Planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies are said to be on the way from the European Union, from Canada, Russia and Latin American nations. Two US aircraft carriers are also expected to arrive soon.
With communications largely down, it’s been very difficult to reach people on the ground in Haiti. But late last night Democracy Now! spoke to a young father named Jesse Hagopian in Port-Au-Prince over the phone. Jesse had been visiting Haiti from Washington state along with his wife and one-year-old child. For the past two days he has helped care for the injured.
JESSE HAGOPIAN: I’m in Pétionville, just outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We were staying at a hotel here when the earthquake hit. Fortunately, me and my son and my wife, who are all here, we’re fine. We’re untouched by the damage. Our hotel room was completely destroyed, but we weren’t injured at all. But unfortunately, tens of thousands of people have been injured and have lost their homes. It’s just a catastrophic scene.
We had one nurse at our hotel, so he was out front helping people who were coming in who were injured. When word got out that there was a nurse at our hotel, people just started bringing their injured family members to the hotel. I was deputized by the nurse to help in whatever way I could. So he would tell me where a broken bone was, and I had to learn on the sly how to make a splint.
The injuries that we saw over the last two days have just been horrific. It’s hard to describe. I was working on a boy who his father was there speaking in Creole, so we were trying to get a good translation, but basically what he explained was that their house collapsed, and he got out, but his son was trapped under the rubble. But he could—his son could still yell, and they spent all night trying to find him, and finally they dug him out, and they brought him to our hotel, because there was one nurse at our hotel. You knw, most of the hospitals are totally over capacity, and so the fact that there was one nurse was a huge draw to people. So he brought his son here and was barely breathing, and we worked. He had a head injury. His bone was sticking out of his leg. And we worked with the bed sheets that we’d stripped from the hotel and ripped into four-inch-long strips to wrap around his head and his leg to wrap a splint on, but he died right there today in front of us and had to be just carried off.
The injuries just kept coming all day long—head injuries, people with multiple broken legs, people catatonic who couldn’t speak. Everybody is asking for medicine. You know, we don’t have basic—we don’t have Advil. We didn’t have gauze. We don’t have hydrogen peroxide. Like, it was one nurse and me, who happened to be a guest at this hotel because my wife is doing HIV work in the country. I happened to be there to help this nurse, but I have no medical training, and I just had to do whatever he explained to me to do.
Too many people had sheets over them and notes, because they were dead. And if you go through the streets, you can just—you can hear. What’s really eerie is the sound of just screaming, which is constant. I can hear it right now. It’s just people either singing and praying or just really loud screams. And there’s been a lot of tremors over the last two days, so when the earth shakes again, much more mildly, people start to scream again. So it’s a really eerie sound.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s American Jesse Hagopian, who had gone with his wife and child to Haiti just a few weeks ago—his wife is an HIV educator—speaking to us from Haiti.