In Haiti’s Grim Landscape, Stories of Survival and Frustration

BY Larisa Epatko  January 17, 2010 at 11:13 AM EST

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians were still waiting desperately for aid Sunday, while rescue workers continued to pull people from collapsed buildings five days after an earthquake ravaged Port-au-Prince. World leaders vowed to help the impoverished nation rebuild.

Three people were saved from the debris of a five-story supermarket early Sunday, Reuters reported. U.S. and Turkish teams freed a 7-year-old Haitian girl, a Haitian man and an American woman.

The rescuers had nearly given up hope of finding anyone alive until a supermarket cashier called someone in Miami to say she was still inside.

On Saturday, a Russian team removed two Haitian girls still alive — 9-year-old Olon Remi and 11-year-old Senviol Ovri — from their demolished home.

Ioan Grillo, a GlobalPost reporter in Port-au-Prince, described how one man, Floran Daton, dug for hours through the rubble of his home to pull his 9-year-old daughter Willy to safety. She was his only surviving child — her older brother and sister died in the quake, along with two of Daton’s grandchildren.

“She doesn’t know about them,” he told Grillo as his daughter rested on a mattress in a hospital parking lot. “We don’t want her to find out yet.”

The Times Online described how British rescue team Rapid UK freed a 39-year-old woman after digging for six hours through the ruins of her home.

“There was a woman yesterday under three or four floors of concrete squashed in with dead members of her family,” said Dan Cooke, a Wiltshire firefighter. “That was a hammer and chisel job and it took six hours before the doctor assigned to our team took her to hospital.”

Favorable weather conditions were helping with the rescues, but the chances for saving people would drop “massively” as the days pass, Cooke said.

Personal accounts of the disaster also continue to flow out via social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. The Los Angeles Times has this compilation of the latest reporting from around the Web.

Some relief workers expressed frustration getting aid from the damaged airport in Port-au-Prince, which is now being operated by the U.S. military, to the hundreds of thousands of Haitians awaiting help.

Doctors Without Borders reported having to re-route its cargo plane carrying an inflatable surgical hospital from Haiti’s airport to Samana in neighboring Dominican Republic, which would delay the arrival of its hospital for a day.

The American Red Cross said truckloads of its hospital and water purification equipment that were diverted to the Dominican Republic were expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince by Sunday.

NPR reports on the logistical challenges hampering efforts to help Haitians still suffering amid the earthquake’s ruins:

“Even when aid is delivered, there is not yet enough security in place to prevent chaotic scuffles over water and food. In at least one case, U.S. helicopters had to pull back to prevent people from being injured as they rushed under the whirling chopper blades to get at cases of bottled water.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Haitians the United States will ensure their country — the poorest in the Western hemisphere — emerges “stronger and better” from the disaster.

“We will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead,” she said after meeting Haitian President Rene Preval at the Port-au-Prince airport on Saturday.

The State Department posted a Google-powered Person Finder online tool to help people track information on missing loved ones.

President of the Inter-American Development Bank Luis Alberto Moreno plans to visit Haiti on Monday and attend a donors meeting in the Dominican Republic to start examining Haiti’s reconstruction needs, said a bank spokesman, reported the Associated Press.