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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Anguish, helplessness as Haiti crisis deepens in quake aftermath

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PORT-AU-PRINCE/TORONTO — In Les Cayes, Haiti, an excavator is clearing away rubble left by Saturday’s massive earthquake while groups of bystanders and armed security look on. Lying in the crushing pile and forgotten in the sweltering heat, but in plain sight of the demolition crew, is a sheet-covered body that locals say has been there for two days.

The scope of devastation is unimaginable. The stench of death permeates the air.

Nearby, a swimming pool filled with debris is the only clue that the pile of wreckage was once a hotel. Dozens of people are rummaging through the mess, picking out scrap metal by hand to sell at the markets later.

The crisis is deepening in Haiti days after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern part of the country. Hampered by Tropical Storm Grace, incapacitated hospitals, and thousands injured — many waiting for help in withering heat — there is anger and frustration at the slow and uncoordinated response for aid.

The death toll now stands at 1,941. Some 30,000 families have lost their homes — more than 7,000 were destroyed and another 12,000 damaged. Over 10,000 people have been injured.

“It’s painful. It’s heart-wrenching. And I ask myself, no one country, or one people, should be subject to such perpetual misery, suffering and deprivation,” said Dr. Yvens G. Laborde, a Haitian physician living in the United States who felt compelled to return home to help.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Even before the catastrophic quake, the suffering has been relentless. Haiti has been grappling with the pandemic, gang violence, worsening poverty, and last month, the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

In a soccer field, muddy from the storms earlier in the week, survivors are trying to get by in makeshift shelters and tents. Here, Laborde breaks down.

“There is nothing different in me and them. It hurts my soul because they are people, beautiful people, and they are like anybody else,” he says.

“She could be my daughter. He could be my son. And I know how it feels if I was in that position so I feel helpless.”

From a grandmother — a matriarch in a family of 11 — to a little girl in tears, these are victims who have lost everything. Inside hospitals struggling to function while short on staff and basics like painkillers, there is overwhelming anguish among the patients. Some of the injured are being brought to Port-au-Prince for treatment, but for many others, they simply will not make it.

A woman who was struck in the head during the earthquake is unable to get a scan. Her son holds her hand, knowing these are likely her final moments.

“The hardest part is, you know, with such limited resources, you can’t do everything for every single person you would normally want to do,” says Dr. Eric Hill, a physician at the hospital.

With files from The Associated Press 

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