Port-au-Prince (AsiaNews) - There are tens of thousands, maybe 100 thousand victims of the devastating magnitude 7 earthquake that hit Haiti on 12 January at 16:53 local time (22:53 in Italy). Dozens of aftershocks, some intensive, have followed. The aid machine has been set in motion to bring the first relief, but the situation is dramatic. AsiaNews sources in Port-au-Prince confirm that they lack "doctors and medicine" and the exact number of victims "will never be known”.
The dead, according to some rumours, may even overwhelm the tragedy of the tsunami in December 2004 that caused more than 230 thousand deaths across Asia. Jean Max Bellerive, Haiti's prime minister, doubts that the dead "are less than 100 thousand”. Previously President René Préval, whose house suffered serious damage, had spoken of "thousands" of deaths. "The parliament has collapsed - confirmed the Haitian president - some hospitals have collapsed. Many schools are full of corpses”.
The Red Cross counts about 3 million people killed, injured or homeless. There are no signs of a coordinated rescue operation for people trapped under the rubble of buildings crushed by the quake. The survivors are stunned and do not want to return to their homes for fear of new tremors, and remain in the open or emergency shelters. People on the street sing traditional songs and pray for the victims. "They sing because they ask God to do something. They want God to help them. We all want help”, says Dermene Duma, an official of the Villa Creole hotel, who lost four family members.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Chile to launch a coordinated aid effort for Haiti. United States, China, Taiwan and the EU have set up rescue teams, non-governmental organizations have provided tents, drinking water and other basic necessities.
Catholic sources in the capital report to AsiaNews that people "are digging through the rubble with bare hands in search of relatives." From collapsed houses and public buildings "wailing and requests for help can still be heard”. Compounding the budget of the tragedy there is illegal building and the failure to meet minimum safety standards. "Haiti is a poor country - they explain - and 90% of housing is built very badly."
Currently the only hospital operating is that of UN troops from Argentina, but there are "no more spaces available. The lack of doctors and medicine is a dramatic reality". The headquarters of the United Nations, a five-storey building, was razed by the quake, the most powerful to hit the Caribbean republic in more than a century."It is impossible to exactly estimate the dead" concludes the source. In a slum in the capital, officially, there are "about 70 thousand inhabitants. From a survey we conducted in the past, the number of people exceeded 120 thousand and we questioned only half of the families. The number of dead will never be known".