THE BLOG

Dispatch from the Ground in Haiti

A Christmas tree with tinsel lay forlornly on the ground with what looked
like small presents around that had scattered onto the floor. Next to
it, a table was laid out with plates, food and cutlery as though the
family were ready to come back for dinner. I could see all this clearly as
the front wall of the house had exploded and was pushed out onto the street
exposing the family dining room.

It had been like this for the last four days, ever since Haiti's capital,
Port-au-Prince, was hit by a devastating earthquake, said my colleague.
Whether the inhabitants of the house, surrounded by collapsed buildings and
debris, would ever come back was quite another question.

It's estimated that two million people were affected by the massive
earthquake that hit the Haitian capital earlier this week. Thousands are
thought to have been killed, many were injured and the rest of the city's
dazed residents are still reeling from the shock of it all.

Many walk the streets, some barefoot, balancing on their heads bags
containing what belongings they could grab before they fled and clutching
plastic containers for water. Large numbers are also wearing masks to stop
inhaling the thick grey smoke that lingered long after the quake. The
masks also offered some protection from the thick stench of dead bodies
that lined the streets in the immediate aftermath of the quake and are
still turning up wrapped in sheets or pieces of clothing.

It's thought as many as 30,000 may have been killed in the earthquake while
others are still trapped under the debris of collapsed buildings.

Some foreign search and rescue crews who had been working to recover those
trapped under wrecked buildings at what was the capital's top hotel, the
Montana, told me that cries could still be heard from those buried beneath
the rubble across the capital.

Some aid is now getting through to the city. Much of it is coming by truck
from the neighbouring Dominican Republic. Some supplies have started to be
flown in via the capital's airport which was affected by the quake and has
reopened for humanitarian flights after several days of closure

The aid agency Oxfam is flying in emergency experts and is starting to
distribute water at some of the large makeshift camps that have sprung up
at parks and outdoor areas and hospitals.

The needs are enormous as most basic services just aren't functioning. At
the best of times, daily life in Haiti for the 80% or so of the population
who have to live on less than two dollars a day, is a daily struggle.

The impact of the quake has made things even worse.

Haiti needs more than a quick fix of emergency aid. It will be many years
before the country can really get back on its feet again and fully recover
from this massive shock.