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Haitians Start Burials, But Basic Needs Still Lacking

January 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Judy Woodruff gets on-the-ground reports from Tony Winton, a broadcast reporter for the Associated Press, and Bob Poff, divisional director of disaster services for the Salvation Army.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for what it is like on the ground in Haiti.

I spoke earlier with a reporter and an emergency relief coordinator for the Salvation Army.

First, Tony Winton, a broadcast reporter for the Associated Press.

Tony Winton, thank you very much for talking with us.

We’re now a full two days into this. How would you describe the situation?

TONY WINTON, Associated Press: It’s still pretty grim and grave.

There are still bodies lying in streets. We saw a makeshift grave operation on a hillside in Port-au-Prince, where people were burying people in shallow graves, perhaps just a feet deep. Meanwhile, people are still living out in the open under tent cities that have popped up all over the town, fearful of getting inside.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have a sense of how many people are still alive under the rubble, the collapsed buildings?

TONY WINTON: We have seen a few places where there is a frantic activity by Haitians trying to get someone out.

But, for the most part, a lot of these collapsed structures, there’s no activity going on. It doesn’t mean there’s not anyone alive there. There just isn’t something we can see.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there — to what extent is there enough equipment, enough people to get to the people still trapped?

TONY WINTON: It would be hard for me to assess that. I do know that we have seen large contingents of trained urban rescue professionals come in, such as the ones from Miami-Dade and from Los Angeles that came into Port-au-Prince today. They certainly have the skills. One of them told me that it’s not uncommon to have a rescue as late as seven days after an earthquake.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tony Winton, what are you focusing your reporting on now?

TONY WINTON: Well, today, we were focusing on the relief efforts, the delivery of basic supplies.

We were in one neighborhood where, after two days, finally, a water truck showed up, and hundreds of Haitians came out with pails to have the truck fill them up. And, in true Haitian fashion, a little entrepreneurship, someone set up a little fried dough stand right next to the water truck. So, that was a scene where people were trying to make the best of it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tony Winton with the AP, we thank you very much for talking with us.

I’m talking now with Bob Poff, who is with the Salvation Army there in Port-au-Prince.

Mr. Poff, what is your main challenge right now?

BOB POFF, Salvation Army: The main challenge is getting the vital sustenance that the people need. We need to get them food and water. We need to get them some shelter. And we need to get them shelter– get them to them quickly. We need medical first aid as well.

We’re seeing hundreds of people coming to our compound that need medical assistance right away. And we’re out of supplies. So, we need it desperately.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what are you hearing in terms of when this materiel is going to be there?

BOB POFF: Well, the first plane is due to arrive any minute, actually. They have had some difficulties getting into the airport as well.

We haven’t actually seen them yet, so they’re not on the ground, as far as we know, but, hopefully, any minute now, we’re going to get word that our first plane with some food, water, and medical supplies has arrived.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For you, for someone who has been living in Haiti, what are you seeing of the people around you?

BOB POFF: I’m seeing several things that really amaze me. I’m seeing people who are very, very strong, who are very courageous. I’m seeing them fight against all the things that have happened to them with this devastation.

And then I’m seeing a number of people whose bodies have been banged and bruised. One boy came to our compound today with his hand severed and the bone sticking out of his arm, and, yet, not a whimper. The boy wasn’t crying. He wasn’t screaming. I know he had been like this for a few days, and he came — they finally brought him to us in that terrible condition.

So, yes, it’s a very difficult situation. Yes, people are very anxious. They need to know if they’re going to have food and water in the coming hours. But I see people who are also quite strong and quite willing to do what it takes to make a difference.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Bob Poff with the Salvation Army, thank you.