Americans Pulled From Rubble as Haiti's Earthquake Survivors Begin to Get Relief

Amid survivor search, anger rises over slow relief, president pledges $100M.

January 14, 2010, 10:52 AM

Jan. 14, 2010 — -- Two Americans were pulled out of the rubble of a Port-au-Prince, Haiti hotel at the end of a day when rescue teams, food, military aid and medicine finally began trickling in to the earthquake-ravaged Haitian capital.

Sarla Chand of New Jersey thanked rescuers for saving her life as she was carried out of the rubble of the Hotel Montana late Thursday. She ate a cookie and was checked by doctors as a French team tried to free several other apparent survivors, many of them believed to be Americans.

Another American, Richard Santos of Washington, D.C., was pulled from the rubble soon afterwards.

Santos is the president and CEO of IMA World Health Organization and Chand was the organization's vice president of international programs. The organization reported other staff members also were missing earlier in the day.

Associated Press Television News (APTN) reported that another American woman, Coralie Mevs, was rescued after being trapped under rubble for an hour. She suffered head and spinal cord injuries, and was airlifted to Fort Lauderdale at her family's expense.

Speaking to APTN, her mother, Marguerite Mevs, said, "She was trapped I think around for an hour, it lasted an hour, fortunately some people the building where she was collapsed in part so some other people that were there saw it and were able to rescue her very quickly."

The rescues came after President Obama today announced "one of the largest relief efforts" in U.S. history moving towards the country.

However, aid efforts have been slowed by a heavily damaged airport in Port-au-Prince, impassable roads and crumbling infrastructure, leaving rescue workers largely unable to get desperately needed food, water and medical supplies into the capital.

Some angry Haitians, frustrated by the delays, stacked corpses and debris as roadblocks to protest the delay in aid reaching Port-au-Prince, an eyewitness told the Reuters news agency.

Shaul Schwarz, a photographer for TIME magazine, told Reuters that he saw at least two downtown roadblocks formed with bodies of earthquake victims and rocks. "They are starting to block the roads with bodies," he said, "It's getting ugly out there. People are fed up with getting no help."

David Wimhurst, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti told the AP that people "want us to provide them with help, which is, of course, what we want to do."

But, he added, they see U.N. vehicles patrolling the streets to maintain calm, and not delivering aid, and "they're slowly getting more angry and impatient."

Expatriates based in Port-au-Prince told ABC News that they are already beginning to sense resentment among Haitians at the publicized rescues of foreigners from the rubble.

The Port-au-Prince airport now is operational for humanitarian and military flights only, the Federal Aviation Administration said. U.S. personnel have established control of the airport with Haitian controllers providing air traffic support.

Earlier, the FAA had taken over the main airport because the control tower collapsed in Tuesday's devastating 7.0 quake. The damage caused intermittent ground stops on flights to Haiti Thursday because of limited ground space to park planes and fuel shortages.

Click here to get up-to-date information on the Haiti earthquake.

Haitian President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive have predicted the death toll could reach 100,000.

Late Thursday afternoon, Preval said 7,000 people were reportedly buried in one common grave. Makeshift morgues have been set up in churches, and some people have begun collecting identification cards off corpses to try to compile a master list of the dead.

President Obama: Haiti Is 'a Top Priority'

There were roughly 45,000 Americans living in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.

The State Department late Thursday afternoon confirmed one American death -- 57-year-old Victoria DeLong, a cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince who had been stationed there since February 2009 and joined the State Department in 1983.

The U.S. government was looking into three possible additional American fatalities, but could only confirm DeLong had died.

The Hotel Montana -- where Chand and Santos were rescued, and where a rescue effort continued -- is where the U.N. housed much of its staff in Haiti.

An American named Rudy Bennet has been trapped in the Hotel Montana and has been texting relatives back in the U.S.

The earthquake that struck Tuesday may have claimed 45,000 to 50,000 lives, according to Haiti's Red Cross.

"No one knows with precision. No one can confirm a figure," Victor Jackson, an assistant national coordinator with Haiti's Red Cross, told Reuters.

For full Haiti Earthquake coverage watch World News With Diane Sawyer this evening. Check your local listing for times.

"It will take hours, in many cases days to get all of the rescue teams and resources on the ground in Haiti to assist with the rescue effort," President Obama said in a televised statement from the White House this morning.

Flanked by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama said that leaders from his national security team must make Haiti "a top priority."

Obama earlier had pledged initial support of $100 million towards the relief efforts. He has also asked former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to lead fundraising efforts.

U.S. corporations have pledged nearly $15 million, an amount that is sure to increase in the coming days.

Obama outlined steps successfully taken: The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will arrive on Friday with 19 helicopters. Members of the 82nd Airborne have hit the ground in Haiti. Three aircraft landed Thursday with search and rescue teams. Five additional planes were scheduled to land Thursday evening with further rescue teams, dogs, medical supplies and pallets. Several Coast Guard cutters are providing basic supplies and technical equipment. Three U.S. ships offering hospital services and medical support were scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Jan. 15, 18 and 22.

Not only military ships are involved. Cruise ships are joining the rescue effort as well. The Royal Caribbean International cruise liner announced today that relief supplies such as rice, beans, water, dried milk and canned goods have been loaded onto the Independence of the Seas, which had already been scheduled to dock at Royal Caribbean's port on Friday in the north of Haiti in Labadee. There were no reports of damage at the port. Relief supplies were to be distributed by "Food for the Poor."

The needs are overwhelming. Thousands are believed to be trapped in collapsed buildings after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, with an additional three million Haitians in need of aid.

The Red Cross reported that it had received nearly $35 million in donations after it initially committed $10 million to the relief effort. The donations have exceeded their totals received in the first 48 hours of both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The Obama administration's program to raise money for the Red Cross relief effort through text messaging had raised $5.9 million by 7 p.m. Thursday -- a period of just more than two days -- the State Department said. By texting 'HAITI' to 90999 through their cell phones, donors can give $10 to the Red Cross, a charge that will appear on their bills.

'I Can't Tell Her That Her Last Sister Died'

The BBC's Matthew Price visited a hospital in Port-au-Prince this morning, where he interviewed the injured and those looking for their family members. He interviewed one man whose older daughter was killed when their house came crumbling on top of her.

He was in the hospital with his second daughter, also injured and whose legs may need to be amputated.

"She hasn't had an operation. Just take the kid to the operation room and just start operating. I don't care how you do it," he pleaded, while comforting his daughter, who was crying. "She is asking me about her sister. I can't tell her that her last sister died."

As night fell on Wednesday, many crowded into the downtown streets of Port-au-Prince looking for shelter under tarps set up outside the prime minister's office or elsewhere around the capital, either because they were afraid to be indoors in case another earthquake hit or because they simply did not have a home to go to.

Desperate residents turned pickup trucks and wheelbarrows into ambulances and doors into stretchers, the Associated Press reported.

ABC News obtained information about an aid worker based in Port-au-Prince who helped dig out 8 bodies, including the child of one of his fellow aid workers. Earlier, the same man was dragged from his vehicle at gunpoint as he was leaving the Parliament building, with his vehicle taking two gunshots. Yet, the aid worker has refused to evacuate until all his fellow colleagues are accounted for.

Journalist Carl Pedre described his observations to ABC News over the phone, as he walked the streets of Port-au-Prince Wednesday night: "It is very difficult to see at every corner dead bodies. And all the low parts of the city completely destroyed with houses in rubble and people still trapped inside. I was speechless."

Pedre said there was no electricity, aid, food or water.

"And a rumor was spreading around that a tsunami was coming, so people were running everywhere scared to be trapped again by another disaster," he added.

Ricardo Dervil, 29, said he joined the crowds simply roaming the wrecked city.

"I was listening to the radio and they were saying to stay away from buildings," he said. "All I was doing was walking the street and seeing dead people."

"This is much worse than a hurricane," said Jimitre Coquillon, a doctor's assistant working at a triage center set up in a hotel parking lot. "There's no water. There's nothing. Thirsty people are going to die."

Juidthe Jacques, who brought her mother Marguerite in to a hotel lobby being used as a makeshift hospital, fought back tears as she told the Miami Herald, "Where are the doctors? We expected doctors."

Living to Tell the Tale

At least 36 U.N. employees, including chief of the U.N. mission in Haiti, Hedi Annabi, have died, with at least 150 still unaccounted for, said U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, who briefed reporters Thursday morning.

"It's highly likely to be the highest mortality count we've ever had," former President Bill Clinton, the UN's Special Envoy to Haiti, told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Wednesday evening.

One of the many iconic images of the quake has been the flour-like dust covering the faces of the survivors walking the streets, dazed, wounded, crying for help, digging out their family members amid rubble and clusters of dead bodies piling the streets.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Dunois Jean-Baptiste spoke of Tuesday's horror, recalling the "huge dust cloud and big rumbling. ... We heard people calling for help."

Social networking sites were overloaded with updates about the Haiti earthquake. Richard Morse, frequently updating on Twitter from Haiti wrote this morning, "I'm hearing planes and or helicopter. Yesterday there were none to speak of. Changes the atmosphere. I hope there is help on the ground."

Thousands of U.N. peacekeepers were on patrol trying to maintain law and order in and around Port-au-Prince and assisting with humanitarian relief. Rescue teams from countries including France, China, United States and the Dominican Republic were working on the ground.

Kirit Radia contributed to the reporting of this story.

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