Outside Haiti’s capital, help trickles in

Only the goats risk the cool shade of the century-old colonnades left standing in this provincial capital.

The people have hauled themselves and their possessions into the middle of the dirt roads, away from the fallen storefront arches and tin roofs that now rest on piles of brick like crumpled hats. Leogane looks like an archaeological dig overrun by squatters who wait for food, medical attention and shelter from the sun and coming rain.

International aid is starting to pour into Port-au-Prince, two hours to the east. On Monday, four ships carrying 2,200 Marines anchored off the coast and began ferrying supplies and personnel ashore. There were scattered reports of looting and gunfire in the capital, but U.N. officials said the relief effort was gaining momentum. And international teams were still finding victims alive under the rubble.


In Leogane, hub of Haiti’s sugar cane country, residents have seen just an Argentine medical team and the Spanish Red Cross, which is assessing sanitation and water needs here.

In a city of 130,000, only one well is pumping water -- no faster than the flow of a garden hose. And it’s not drinkable.

Residents have given up expecting that any of those still trapped in the rubble will be rescued. After the initial grief and fear, there is a strange pause in the story of last Tuesday’s earthquake.

People here can smell the inevitable.

Jean Robert Senecharles, a thin 35-year-old with watery eyes, said he jumped out of his second-story apartment when the quake hit. The house went down as fast and irrevocably as he did, leaving a large extended family headed by Marie Eve Dupont sandwiched between two slabs of concrete.

There were small openings between the layers, but nothing anyone could get more than an arm into. They heard no voices. And when the smell came, they had no choice.

“We filled it with dirt,” he said.

In Leogane, Jacmel and other towns surrounding Port-au-Prince, access is difficult, and the critical first days of the relief effort are waning. The historic sites -- sleepy, rundown vestiges of the old French plantation colony -- are quickly matching the squalor of the capital.

The road to Leogane is fractured and rippled in places where the magnitude 7.0 quake caused the earth to shift. Storefronts, houses and police stations along the way have crumbled. Beyond them, the green sugar cane fields shimmer in the sun.

Leogane residents are ripping wood and tin off fallen structures, quickly turning parks and fields, even roads, into shantytowns.

“Take me to your country!” a woman shouted as a reporter walked by.

Marie Elmera Surme’s house did not fall, but it’s deeply cracked, and she doesn’t want to go in. So she sat outside with her remaining food -- three bags of rice and some vegetable oil -- as people hammered scraps of wood in her street.

She wondered what she was going to do.

“What are we going to rebuild with?” she asked.

“If we don’t get help, we’re going straight to the boats. America is going to be flooded with kanters,” she said, using a Creole word for “container,” referring to the makeshift boats packed with immigrants that head to the Bahamas and Miami.

Help was just trickling in to the region. The Argentine medical workers set up a clinic late Sunday at the U.N. peacekeeping base just outside town. And the Spanish Red Cross came.

“There are about 20,000 people living in 15 tent cities, with no water,” said Luis Palomar, a member of the Spanish team.

At the biggest encampment, in the soccer stadium, Anes Lowol, 88, lay in a bed under a roof of bedsheets and kept trying to swipe the flies off the gauze on her wrist, yellow and brown with infection. She could barely force her voice out.

“This was only done yesterday, and it’s already like this,” she said of her bandage.

At the nearby tent camp that serves as the Sri Lankan U.N. base, a place previously so quiet the soldiers served visitors tea in fine china, medical teams rushed to set up and help people.

A couple frantically carried in their son, a cardboard cast around his leg. Two men hobbled in on crutches made of sticks.

In a tent at a clinic set up on the United Nations base, about 30 people lay in the stifling heat on the ground, among them Rosemanet Pierre Louis. She had finally gotten some pain medication, but she was sweating with fever.

The 18-year-old’s mother attended her, futilely trying to find water and food.

When their house collapsed, a slab of concrete splintered the young woman’s ankle, pushing the bone through the skin.

Haitian doctors put a cast on it, but the foot and ankle were bent nearly 45 degrees.

“It’s infected,” said Papillon Jean Mary, a nurse. “We’re going to clean the bone out and send her to Port-au-Prince.”

Where in Port-au-Prince, he was not sure. People there are dying in hospital parking lots.

Asked what was needed most at this clinic, the patients resoundingly said, “Manje, manje.”


Mary said 60 people have died at the clinic so far.

Under a tree, with an IV hanging from a rough bough, Debra Brutus, age 2 1/2 , drifted in and out of consciousness in her lace dress. A wall had fallen on her during the quake. Her mother, Merite, pulled her daughter out, unconscious and bleeding from the nose and ears.

“I was blowing into her nose and her mouth,” she said. “I thought she was dead.”

The girl moved a little, and her mother went around town looking for doctors. “This was open, but there was no one to help,” she said.

That was Tuesday. She heard the Argentines had arrived late Saturday, and she rushed to the base outside town Sunday morning.

A doctor checked the girl and said she would survive. Workers hooked up the IV bag with serum, and she rested between her mother’s legs.

“The doctor told us to wait,” the mother said. “They will bring her in.”

She watched her daughter closely.

A fly landed on the girl’s eyelash and she blinked. This was a good sign.