Bodies pile up as Haiti begs

January 25, 2010 12:00 am

, PORT-AU-PRINCE Jan 25 – Earthmovers cleared rotting corpses from Haiti\’s ruined capital as donors met on Monday to draw up a recovery plan from an earthquake now known to have killed at least 150,000 people.

With strong aftershocks bringing new terror to the streets of Port-au-Prince, police struggled to control fresh outbreaks of looting in the city where hundreds of thousands are homeless, hungry and wounded.

Haitian police shouted out from time to time to deter the gangs, but with little conviction and less success. The police shot one young man, witnesses said, who was treated by US troops.

With the search for survivors officially over, mechanical diggers demolished damaged buildings and cleared downtown rubble in the tropical heat.

The stench from bodies which had been entombed in the rubble since tragedy struck on January 12 reeked through the capital.

Communications Minister Marie-Lawrence Jocelyn Lassegue said she had been told by the national recovery commission to expect "a figure of 150,000 dead by Monday", referring to the number of bodies found and officially counted.

"It\’s very difficult to estimate how many more people might be dead, but the prime minister has spoken of 200,000," she added.

Previously, Haitian health officials had quoted a figure of just over 112,000 dead.

There were no reports of new casualties after a 4.7-magnitude aftershock rattled Haiti on Sunday.

"I heard a sound like a grumbling, then a drumbeat, as if something wanted to burst from the belly of the earth," said Patrice Dumont, a teacher from the ruined town of Leogane, west of the capital.

Ministers in Montreal will discuss how to streamline the delivery of food, water, drugs, and medical supplies to the swelling number of people living in makeshift camps around the shattered capital.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and officials from the United Nations will attend Monday\’s talks.

Aid workers have been moving into the recovery phase after the government officially called off search and rescue efforts, but French rescue workers said on Sunday they had detected what might be another survivor.

"We detected a movement on radar. We don\’t know what it is. It could be an animal or a person. We have been digging since 13:22 (1822 GMT) and it will take hours," French civil defence service Commander Philippe Chaussinaid told AFP.

In the downtown district of Delmas, two dozen French firefighters were working in and around the building behind a cordon protected by armed French gendarmes.

"There was someone who came to talk to tell us that they heard noises from that house there," Commander Samuel Bernes, also of the French civil defence service, told AFP at the scene.

Search teams on Friday dug out a 25-year-old shop employee, Wismond Exantus, from the ruins. He said he survived his 11 days beneath the ruins by drinking Coca-Cola and eating snacks.

Meanwhile, a mass exodus from the capital was putting a huge burden on small towns like Saint Marc, where 10,000 refugees were lodging with friends, strangers or in churches.

Buses passed incessantly through the town some 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Port-au-Prince, loaded with earthquake victims hoping to find food and shelter.

"My house was destroyed. We slept on the pavement near the wounded, we had to leave," said Magalie Esteverle, a 43-year-old dressmaker with three children staying with a distant cousin of her husband.

As the potential for chaos rose, the new UN chief of mission in Haiti called for more manpower and vehicles, and said that clearing rubble and counting victims could take years.

"I need manpower. I need soldiers," Edmond Mulet, whose predecessor was killed when the UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed in the January 12 quake, told CNN.

Experts warn that hundreds of thousands of Haitians will be living off foreign aid and in temporary housing for years to come as rebuilding the nation may take at least a decade. Thousands have been left disabled.


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