Strong Aftershock Rattles Haiti

BY Larisa Epatko  January 20, 2010 at 11:15 AM EST

As relief efforts continue to build in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, a 6.1-magnitude aftershock hit the country Wednesday morning, knocking debris from buildings and sending people scrambling for open ground.

The aftershock was the largest of more than 40 to rattle Haiti since a 7.0-magnitude quake struck near the capital Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12.

Wednesday’s aftershock was reportedly centered on Gressier, a village west of Port-au-Prince.

“I thought this time, my good God, it was the end of the world,” Josette Lilas, a 25-year-old beautician who has been sleeping in the street, told the New York Times. “I screamed and screamed. Then I realized it was over. I was still alive. Hallelujah.”

The temblor prompted Anold Fleurigene, 28, to head to the bus station with his wife and three children. “I’ve seen the situation here, and I want to get out,” he told the Associated Press.

Aid organizations are working through logistical problems, including a single-runway airport in Port-au-Prince, to get supplies to Haitians desperate for food and water. Tent camps containing thousands of earthquake survivors have been set up around the city.

About 2,200 U.S. Marines secured an area west of Port-au-Prince to try to speed delivery of relief supplies, in addition to 9,000 Army soldiers already working on the ground, reported the AP. The military also was sending aid by helicopter from the airport to the city of Jacmel.

The United Nations also planned to send reinforcements. The Security Council voted Tuesday to add 2,000 peacekeepers to the 7,000 force already in Haiti, and 1,500 more police to the 2,100-member international force.

Stories of rescues continued to filter out Wednesday, including those of Hoteline Losana, 25, who was pulled from the wreckage of a supermarket; Anna Zizi, about 70, who sang as she was removed from the ruins of Port-au-Prince cathedral; and a three-week-old girl who was dug out of rubble of Jacmel, reported the Agence France-Presse.

The earthquake killed an estimated 200,000 people, injured 250,000 and left 1.5 million homeless, according to the European Union Commission, reported the AP. The Red Cross and United Nations earlier released an estimate of 50,000 killed.

Haiti’s President Rene Preval appeared shaken at a news conference held in the government’s temporary headquarters in a police station near the airport. The quake destroyed the National Palace, the Supreme Court and ministry buildings.

Asked about security, he said the police were acting in “extremely difficult conditions” and called on the Haitian people to “organize themselves” to maintain order, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“The damage I have seen here can be compared to the damage you would see if the country was bombed for 15 days. It is like in a war,” Preval told Reuters.

The Miami Herald reports on how the Prevals survived the massive quake.