Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Living sleep among dead at Haiti hospitals

Matthew Price describes the "grim" scenes at a Port-au-Prince hospital

By Matthew Price
BBC News, Port-au-Prince

There is a body lying outside L'Hopital de la Paix in Port-au-Prince - but it is the sight that awaits you inside the hospital grounds that is most alarming.

It is as if a massacre has been perpetrated here.

Dirty white sheets cover some of the dead, others lie out in the open, some, their limbs entwined with another's.

Many are the bodies of adults, but here to the right, a baby on her back, her belly bloated and pronounced.

She is wearing a silvery blue top, just lying by the curb, abandoned.

A man stirs to the left. He unfurls a blanket that covers the ground and lies back down.

The living are sleeping among the dead.

Nearby, still outside, a woman lies on a hospital bed. Like many she is too scared of aftershocks to stay inside.

That is why they are here, out under the dark, star-filled sky.

Echoes of pain

A man with wide eyes stares at a passing stranger.

MSF Petion Ville offices transformed into a makeshift hospital, 13 January 2010 (Medecins Sans Frontieres)
The site of the MSF aid agency has become a makeshift hospital

A relative moves to lift the sheet covering his two broken legs, as if there was any need to emphasise the suffering here.

A woman lies on an unfolded cardboard box. There is a pool of her blood slowly collecting below her waist.

She needs help - so does everyone. The screams and whimpers of those in pain echo down the corridors.

There are few doctors, little medicine.

One woman, a German it seems, says she has just stopped by to help. Her house, she says, was also damaged.

A doctor gives her a small vial and she works her way gingerly over the other injured people to a man she has been trying to help.

It is clear many brought to the hospital with injuries have since died here.

One man with tears in his eyes pointed to his young daughter lying on the dirty tiled floor.

She has two broken legs and a large gash in her head. Her sister is already dead.

Nothing left

"Ca va?" her father asks. "Oui," she replies softly - but she is not okay.

In pockets there is barely anything left of this city, and so far the people are largely having to cope on their own.

A crowd of people observe the covered corpses of those killed by a massive earthquake in Port-au-Prince on January 13, 2010
Hundreds of corpses are lying in the streets of Port-au-Prince

Overnight a rumour went round of an approaching tsunami.

Hundreds, it seemed, rushed from the coast and they came along dark, unlit streets carrying a few possessions.

There was no tsunami of course, but it showed how scared and alone the people feel.

Many are thought to remain trapped underneath the larger buildings that collapsed and Haiti has little in the way of heavy lifting equipment to reach them.

The leadership here says tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Some of the UN peacekeepers stationed here are among the dead.

This country, so often in the past forgotten by the world, now needs its help more than ever.

So, too, does another little girl lying on a table at the hospital. She stirs a little, almost looks asleep.

It is not, though, a peaceful sleep - and by dawn she could well be dead.

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