LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) — Pressure for a coordinated response to Haiti’s deadly weekend earthquake mounted Wednesday as more bodies were pulled from the rubble and the injured continued to arrive from remote areas in search of medical care. Aid was slowly trickling in to help the thousands who were left homeless.
International aid workers on the ground said hospitals in the areas worst hit by Saturday’s quake are mostly incapacitated and that there is a desperate need for medical equipment. But the government told at least one foreign organization that has been operating in the country for nearly three decades that it did not need assistance from hundreds of its medical volunteers.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Henry said Wednesday that his administration will work to avoid “repeat history on the mismanagement and coordination of aid,” a reference to the chaos that followed the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake, when the government was accused of not getting all of the money raised by donors to the people who needed it.
In a message on his Twitter account, Henry said that he “personally” will ensure that the aid gets to the victims this time around.
The Core Group, a coalition of key international diplomats from the United States and other nations that monitors Haiti, said in a statement Wednesday that its members are “resolutely committed to working alongside national and local authorities to ensure that impacted people and areas receive adequate assistance as soon as possible.”
Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency raised the number of deaths from the quake to 2,189 from an earlier count of 1,941 and said more than 12,000 people were injured. The magnitude 7.2 earthquake destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged more than 12,000, leaving about 30,000 families homeless, officials said. Schools, offices and churches also were demolished or badly damaged.
The U.S. Geological Survey said a preliminary analysis of satellite imagery after the earthquake revealed hundreds of landslides.
Tensions were growing Wednesday over the slow pace of aid efforts. At the airport in the southwest city of Les Cayes, one of the hardest-hit areas, throngs of people gathered outside the fence at the terminal after an aid flight arrived and crews began loading boxes into waiting trucks. One of the members of a Haitian national police squad on hand to guard the shipments fired two warning shots to disperse a group of young men.
Angry crowds also massed at collapsed buildings in the city, demanding tarps to create temporary shelters that were needed more than ever after Tropical Storm Grace brought heavy rain on Monday and Tuesday.
One of the first food deliveries by local authorities — a couple dozen boxes of rice and pre-measured, bagged meal kits — reached a tent encampment set up in one of the poorest areas of Les Cayes, where most of the warren’s one-story, cinderblock, tin-roofed homes were damaged or destroyed by Saturday’s quake.
But the shipment was clearly insufficient for the hundreds who have lived under tents and tarps for five days.
“It’s not enough, but we’ll do everything we can to make sure everybody gets at least something,” said Vladimir Martino, a resident of the camp who took charge of the precious cargo for distribution.
Gerda Francoise, 24, was one of dozens who lined up in the wilting heat in hopes of receiving food. “I don’t know what I’m going to get, but I need something to take back to my tent,” said Francoise. “I have a child.”
The quake wiped out many of the sources of food and income that many of the poor depend on for survival in Haiti, which is already struggling with the coronavirus, gang violence and the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
“We don’t have anything. Even the (farm) animals are gone. They were killed by the rockslides,” said Elize Civil, 30, a farmer in the village of Fleurant, near the quake’s epicenter.