Haiti's Mass Graves Swell; Doctors Fear More Death
January 21, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Workers are carving out mass graves on a hillside north of Haiti’s capital, using earth-movers to bury 10,000 people in a single day even as relief workers warn that Haitians are still dying of injuries from the Jan. 12 quake for lack of medical care.
Clinics have 12-day waiting lists for patients, untreated injuries are festering and makeshift camps in parks, streets and vacant lots now house an estimated 300,000 people, many in need of food, water and a doctor.
“The next health risk could include outbreaks of diarrhea, respiratory tract infections and other diseases among hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in overcrowded camps with poor or nonexistent sanitation,” said Dr. Greg Elder, deputy operations manager for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti.
The death toll is estimated at 200,000, according to Haitian government figures relayed by the European Commission, with 80,000 buried in mass graves. The commission now estimates 2 million homeless.
Getting help in is still a challenge. Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command running Haiti’s airports said Thursday that 1,400 flights are on a waiting list for slots at the Port-au-Prince airport that can handle 120 to 140 flights a day.
At least 51 sizable aftershocks have jolted the city, sending nervous Haitians fleeing repeatedly into the streets — and keeping many sleeping in the open. Quakes of magnitude 4.9 and 4.8 followed in quick succession just before noon Thursday, prompted rescue crews to briefly abandon work on precarious, ruined buildings, though there were no reports of casualties or damage.
They followed a magnitude-5.9 temblor a day earlier that collapsed some structures.
In the sparsely populated wasteland of Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, burial workers said the macabre task of handling the never-ending flow of bodies was traumatizing.
A doctor tends a Haitian man at an improvised hospital in Jimani, Dominican Republic, near the border with Haiti, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. AP Photo
“I have seen so many children, so many children. I cannot sleep at night and, if I do, it is a constant nightmare,” said Foultone Fequiert, 38, his face covered with a T-shirt against the overwhelming stench.
The dead stick out at all angles from the mass graves — tall mounds of chalky dirt, the limbs of men, women and children frozen together in death. “I received 10,000 bodies yesterday alone,” said Fequiert.
Workers say they have no time to give the dead proper religious burials or follow pleas from the international community that bodies be buried in shallow graves from which loved ones might eventually retrieve them.
“We just dump them in, and fill it up,” said Luckner Clerzier, 39, who was helping guide trucks to another grave site farther up the road.