Tragic diary of an aid worker
PUBLISHED: 14:31 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 17:32 25 August 2010
Carwyn Hill is the founder of a West Wickham based appeal to open a hospital in Haiti. Living in the north of the troubled country here he reveals his observations to the Times. Day one ON Tuesday night the tremors of Port-au-Prince s devastating earth
Carwyn Hill is the founder of a West Wickham based appeal to open a hospital in Haiti. Living in the north of the troubled country here he reveals his observations
to the Times.
ON Tuesday night the tremors of Port-au-Prince's devastating earthquake rippled through the whole country. Cap-Haitian, Haiti's second largest city fell into a silent daze of disbelief, horror and fear.
At 4am a small team from Haiti Hospital Appeal set out from the north of Haiti to Port-au-Prince. For most of the seven-hour journey we remained in silence, fearing what we would find before us.
As we drove further into the city, the scale of the atrocity began to unfold. Piled along many of the streets lay the rotting bodies of victims from the earthquake.
Makeshift coffins occasionally wove in and out of the crowds of people, carried by half-a-dozen or so men.
We had been warned that the city stank of death and such warnings hadn't been false. The majority of the population walk around with masks covering their faces, others have smeared some form of ointment around their nose to avoid the smell. It was as if we'd walked into a city sized morgue. Mass sites have already been used to burn the dead and on the way in and out of Port-au-Prince the smoke and smell linger in the air.
Port-au-Prince has always had some of Haiti's poorest slums, but now it seemed the whole city has transformed into a community of makeshift tents.
Some small communities, just enough to fit a few families in, others huge, easily cramming in hundreds if not thousands. Many sit within these ever increasing temporary refugee camps, beneath the blistering hot sun, resigned to the reality of their new lives.
Many of these families will live in these tents for many months if not years to come. Women, children and men of all ages would stare through our window pleading even for a scrap of food. Our driver became agitated, fearful that some of these crowds in their desperation wanted our ambulance and so we steadily progressed through the city, not hanging around in any one place for too long.
It took us over four hours to get from one side of the city to the other. People walked through the streets aimlessly with nowhere to go, carrying the few bags and possessions they had left.
Many crammed onto any vehicle available desperate to leave. The mass exodus of PAP has begun and on our way out we followed cars full of the injured and in some cases even the dead.
Four days on from the tragedy and dead bodies still pile along the streets, the smell still ever as sickening.
The danger these decomposing bodies cause is severe, not least through what can run into people's water supplies.
Insect-born diseases such as dengue and malaria will be massively increased due to the population now living outside and TB will spread more rapidly because of the close living conditions; families literally piled on top of one another.
Our partner doctor predicts all the above will have started already and if aid isn't swift then the tragedy will only worsen in the coming weeks and months.
As we drove through the city the scale of the atrocity sunk in further.
Human bodies were used besides burning tires and rocks for road blocks. Some roads had been closed whilst one of the few remaining hospitals discharged the mass of patients they couldn't help any more.
Those hospitals that did survive are dangerously low on medication, most from my understanding completely out of supplies. People are turned away, even a child I saw carried in desperately by his mother. Tragically the doctors just had to say 'we can't do anything, you must look elsewhere.'
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The extent of the damage caused by yesterday's second tremor was not known as the Times went to press.
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