Haiti Sadness and Joy: 70,000 Bodies Collected -- but a Record 70+ Rescues

Searchers have pulled unprecedented number of survivors from rubble, U.N. says.

January 15, 2010, 2:28 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 17, 2010— -- International search-and-rescue teams have pulled more than 70 people from the rubble of Haiti's earthquake -- a record for urban search-and-rescue missions following such a disaster, the U.N. claimed.

But though limited food, water and medical supplies finally are reaching victims in desperate need, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told ABC News that at least 70,000 dead bodies have been collected.

Official and unofficial estimates of the death toll have ranged up to 200,000.

"I think the international community is looking at those figures, and I think that's a start point," said U.S. Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, the man in charge of military relief efforts in Haiti, on ABC News' "This Week."

"We are going to have to be prepared for the worst," he said.

In addition to bodies collected by the Haitian government, it is believed many were disposed of privately and thousands more remain uncollected.

At least 16 Americans were known to be among the massive death toll, the State Department reported Sunday afternoon.

Aid continues to move slowly, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"Significant amounts of emergency aid have arrived in quake-struck Port-au-Prince," the ICRC wrote in a statement. "The challenge now is to get it to survivors as quickly as possible. Further assessments confirm that the damage is widespread and immense. Very few neighbourhoods have been spared, while local infrastructure and services have been wiped out."

Despite limited relief supplies flowing into the country, many Haitians still are living in the streets without access to food and water.

The smell of death hangs over Port-au-Prince.

"There are bloated, decomposing bodies in the streets, many leaking yellow liquid," said Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman who has visited most areas of city. "Motorcycles and cars drive around them, and no one looks. Young men remove blocks of cement from collapsed buildings. They are not looking for people, but for scrap metal. It seems they are now focused only on their own survival."

And yet, more than five days after Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, people still are being rescued from the debris -- at least eight people today.

Victims Pulled From Shattered Buildings

According to the U.N., 40 international search-and-rescue teams containing nearly 1,800 rescue workers and more than 160 dogs will not stop until the job is done.

"We haven't given up hope of finding more survivors today," said Jesper Lund, who is heading the global search-and-rescue operations under way in Haiti, according to a U.N. release. "The teams won't stop searching as long as there is still hope of finding survivors alive."

Contrary to local grumbling, those rescued mostly have been Haitians, U.S. officials said. According to numbers from earlier Sunday, only six or seven of 62 people rescued were Americans, with most of the others being Haitians, the officials reported. Of the 62, 29 were rescued by U.S. teams.

A six-hour rescue in Port au Prince's Delmas neighborhood ended late Sunday with the rescue of a 14-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, who were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed home by Miami-Dade firefighters.

A 5-year-old boy also buried under the debris did not survive.

The6-year-old, Nazer Erne, emerged in the arms of a rescuer looking gaunt and dusty. He smiled at the paramedics who attended to him, saying he felt no pain and only suffered a chipped tooth.

As she was carried out by a rescuer, the 14-year-old girl, named Frangina, cried out that the third child buried in the house along with them had died.

Both were tended to by the Miami-Dade team, which took the two survivors to a local hospital.

Earlier in the day, Miami-Dade firefighters also pulled a 3-year-old girl from a ruined house.

This morning, a joint Urban Rescue Team of New York police and firefighters pulled two men and a teenage girl alive from the rubble of a Port-au-Prince grocery store housed in a three-story building that collapsed in Tuesday's earthquake, the NYPD said. The three survived on the grocery store's inventory of food and water.

The NYPD/FDNY team later rescued a man who was trapped in the rubble of a four-story building on Rue Belencourt in Port-au-Prince.

In addition, The Associated Press reported that Virginia firefighters pulled U.N. civil affairs officer Jens Christensen of Denmark from the rubble of the ruined U.N. building, other teams rescued a woman from a collapsed university building, and Montana Hotel co-owner Nadine Cardoso was saved from that wrecked building.

'Baby Jeanne' Saved

On Saturday, a 2-month-old baby was brought to the United Nations hospital after almost four days in a hillside of wreckage in Port-au-Prince by Kathie Klarreich, who's working for ABC News in Haiti. Doctors treated the baby's wounds and gave her a name -- Jeanne.

"It's unbelievable that after three and a half days in the rubble that this baby would still be alive," said Dr. Karen Schneider, a pediatric surgeon from Johns Hopkins University.

After her initial treatments at the hospital, Baby Jeanne took a turn for the worse -- so doctors put her on a jet to Florida. She was the first Haitian to be evacuated for treatment.

"When I put the baby on the seat for the very first time, the baby looked up at me opened her eyes and gave me this big wide smile," Schneider said.

Baby Jeanne is now in the United States. ABC News found the mother, who survived the quake -- and now knows that her baby survived, too.

Looting? Or 'No General Feeling of Violence'?

Things were bleaker elsewhere. ABC News has seen isolated incidents of violence, with people fighting over rations. Gunshots have rang out in some neighborhoods.

Some of the gunshots were the result of police battling suspected looters in parts of Port-au-Prince, and some suspects were beaten and shot, the AP reported. In addition, according to AP, police fired tear gas cannisters to disperse some crowds.

One group of people being hauled away in a pickup truck Saturday looked like they might have been pulled to safety from rubble, but they actually were accused of picking through the remains of a more upscale home than theirs.

"We didn't do anything wrong!" they yelled.

But despite some disorder, Prime Minister Bellerive said the country is safe.

"People can go around the cities," he said. "There is no general feeling of violence in the streets."

In Port-au-Prince, Maggie Boyer of the World Vision relief organization added, "In spite of what some television reports might indicate, the security in Port-au-Prince has actually been amazingly normal."

In fact, amid all the hardship and heartbreak, many Haitians found comfort today in a familiar ritual -- gathering for Sunday services. They were held today in the streets, because the churches have been destroyed.

"Why give thanks to God?" the Rev. Eric Toussaint asked. "Because we are here."

Amid episodes of disorder in Port-au-Prince, there were acts of kindness as people banded together with community spirit.

In one such scene, a 13-year-old boy named Stanley fed an elderly woman, a stranger, her medication.

Haitians Struggle Outside Port-au-Prince

Outside Port-au-Prince, the suffering was just as grave, if not worse.

Reporters were just beginning this morning to hear about towns like Jacmel, a city of 40,000 outside of Port-au-Prince, that's reportedly 60 percent destroyed and has received little or no aid.

Damage in Leogane, Haiti, was even worse.

At Jimani, the only functioning border crossing between the Dominican Republic and Haiti this morning, the usually quiet outpost was jammed with people, cars and a virtual catalog of world aid organizations whose exhausted workers are leaving as fresh troops are coming in.

Desperate Haitians were trying to get past vigilant Dominican border guards. Those who had passports and could get through were bringing their worldly possessions. There were also trucks carrying injured Haitians across the border.

By contrast, when an ABC News crew entered Haiti at the border crossing Wednesday evening, there was hardly anyone there and no stream of refugees at all.

Near midday today, the tiny border hospital in Jimani, Dominican Republic, was overwhelmed as a steady stream of seriously injured Haitians were unloaded from vans and pickup trucks in desperate need of the most basic of care.

The hospital already had 32 beds and more than 200 patients, and the rate of arriving patients seemed to be increasing. Most patients were sprawled on the floor. An American missionary nurse said she brought eight patients there because hospitals in Port-au-Prince were turning patients away.

There are doctors from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic at the facility but there seemed to be little organization. The only X-ray machine was being wheeled through the jammed corridors and used without any protection for those nearby.

The staff was trying to transfer patients to Santo Domingo, but they couldn't keep up.

U.S. Officials: Help Is on the Way

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a quick visit to the Port-au-Prince airport Saturday. In an interview with ABC News' Kate Snow, shown today on ABC News' "Good Morning America Weekend," she defended the initially slow pace of aid.

"I think that the government was devastated," Clinton said. "There was no central authority. Everybody coming in pretty much had to wing it. We're beginning to see some coordination being imposed on the situation."

Haiti's tourism minister, Patrick Delatour, told ABC News' "Good Morning America Weekend" that Haiti's government buildings were destroyed.

"Not one ministry is standing," he said. "Today, you have a president that is homeless. As a minister, I am homeless."

A crowded conference room in a police station was where all major decisions were being made.

"You see how we are functioning," Prime Minister Bellerive said, showing ABC News around. "We don't have office. We don't have secretaries. We don't have cars. We don't have communications for four days."

American officials insisted that more help is coming.

At the White House, President Obama stood with former presidents Bush and Clinton Saturday and promised the ex-presidents would lead an historic fund-raising effort that would be part of a long-term commitment to rebuilding Haiti.

"If we keep doing our job," Bush said today on ABC News' "This Week," "if we hang around and do this and, you know, needle and nudge people -- and the Haitians do what they were doing before this happened, keep proving that they want to modernize the country -- I believe we can get the long-term commitment" from American donors.

Former President Clinton, who currently is the United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti, plans to travel to the beleaguered country Monday to meet with Haitian leaders and citizens, and to deliver aid, the Clinton Foundation announced Sunday.

"They want to modernize the country," Clinton told "This Week." "So what we'll do is we'll get the donors together, and we'll ask the donors to condition the release of their funds based on construction meeting certain standards and being part of a certain plan."

Other U.S. help was more immediate.

Thousands of U.S. troops already were in place and thousands more were expected ashore by next week.

Because the port facilities at Port-au-Prince have suffered major damage, the Navy was sending the salvage ship USS Grasp and a complement of construction divers.

American officials also were helping Haiti manage flights in and out of the damaged airport in Port-au-Prince.

In the longer term, the USNS Comfort, a floating hospital with a crew of 500 sailors, doctors and nurses, was expected to drop anchor outside Port-au-Prince this coming week, about nine days after Tuesday's earthquake. It has enough supplies and staff to treat 40,000 Haitians over the next several weeks, the ship's captain said.

ABC News' Richard Esposito, Jake Tapper, Kirit Radia, Jacqueline Klingebiel, Rachel Martin, Steven Portnoy, and David Kerley contributed to this report.

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