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Haiti earthquake: Aid workers' diaries Sunday 17 January

Baptisy Haiti Mission hospital
"We have at least 300 people in a 100 bed hospital"

Aid workers helping victims of Tuesday's earthquake have been sharing their accounts with us. The following people have been sending us their diaries.

Emerson Tan, MapAction
David Darg, Operation Blessing
Carwyn Hill, Haiti Hospital Appeal
Martin Harrison, HCJB Global Hands
Stuart Coles, Plan International
Isabelle Jeanson, Médecins Sans Frontières

STUART COLES

I see dawn rise and hear the sound of singing as I stand on the terrace roof.

For this devout Catholic country, today is a traditional day of worship, contemplation - and many funerals.

Charity worker Stuart Coles
Help is here but it's still woefully inadequate in this battered city - everyone is stretched to capacity

The people of Port-au-Prince pause to remember their loved ones, but with no shortage of the living in desperate need of help, this rare moment of reflection is gone all too soon.

Thousands upon thousands of homeless Haitians still walk the streets in a desperate search for those vital services - water and shelter - that will keep them safe and alive.

Help is here but it's still woefully inadequate in this battered city - everyone is stretched to capacity.

Yesterday we visited one of Plan's partner organisations - a local clinic. Staff have been swamped with hundreds of casualties, all with typical quake injuries: head, upper and lower limb fractures and wounds.

In a desperate bid to help the most at risk the clinic refers some cases to the specialists at Medicins Sans Frontiers, but they tell us they too are at full stretch.

And so it goes on. Relentless.

Our communications team, myself and video journalist Shona, head south. The quake has turned the usual two-hour drive to Jacmel into a savage, bone-jarring 12-hour mountain slog.

Plan's relief boat from the Domican Republic is on its way to isolated Jacmel with trucks bearing 1,000 family-sized tents and hundreds of emergency kits containing essentials of water, dried food, sugar soap, plastic sheeting, cups and plates.

A seemingly mundane grocery list, but here these goods take on a new, priceless value.

We hope to reach the coast by nightfall and see what challenges and future the people of Jacmel face.

ISABELLE JEANSON

The situation remains critical, few aid agencies are in place, still hundreds of bodies are stuck in buildings. In the entire city, I've only seen about four or five trucks and cranes trying to remove buildings to get people out.

At night we must be careful not to run over people who are sleeping on the roads

The smell can be overwhelming in some areas, where corpses are rotting in the heat, and near Internal Displaced Persons gatherings, because there is no sanitation, no showers, no latrines, and people are gathering in the hundreds anywhere where there is open space in the city.

At night, we must be careful not to run over people who are sleeping on the roads. I saw one person sleep in the middle of an intersection, just to avoid any buildings that may fall if there is another earthquake.

On my way back from an assessment in Legoane (about one hour from Port au Prince) in the dark around 1800 yesterday, we crossed some check points set up by civilians.

They were jumping on a pick-up truck, that was carrying a load of corpses. They were very angry because the driver was going to dump the corpses in their town.

People were angry about this but I would be too, if someone was dumping corpses in my town!

When we crossed the checkpoints, they let us through no problem and showed respect for us.

Last night we could smell that horrible smell, because the windows are open in the house. That team is under a lot of stress because they have extremely limited surgical capabilities.

I spoke to a surgeon yesterday, and he was so frustrated and stressed about the fact that five patients he saw yesterday needed immediate surgery.

It's getting worse because the patients who were not critical only three days ago are now in critical phases

But he can't save their lives because they don't have a proper operational theatre. We need more space to perform surgeries, which the inflatable hospital will provide - if it ever arrives!

So, it's getting worse because the patients who were not critical only three days ago, are now in critical phases. This means that people will die from preventable infections.

It's horrible, it's really so terrible that people are begging for help and we can't help them all to save their lives.


EMERSON TAN

It's the night shift here at the operations base and it is finally quiet. The MapAction team is still up preparing directions and maps for the morning's missions. The window is fast closing and the urban search and rescue team are going for a final push to find and extract people. We in the back-office are also pushing to get what they need to maximise the time left. The camaraderie among all in the operation is great and there is the feeling that every life saved is a tribute to all.

SUNDAY 17 JANUARY - CARWYN HILL

This morning I arrived back from my first trip to Port-au-Prince. I can barely believe what I have seen. It is as if I entered a different world. Yesterday's mission was to seek out appropriate places for us to send aid. The water we handed out was an incredible blessing, and today we are planning a large truck to take down thousands of water sachets. We will also be transporting some very important medical supplies to an Orthopaedic Surgery team in Port-au-Prince who we work with.

It took us over 4 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 Port-au-Prince has begun, and on our way out we followed cars full of the injured, and in some cases even the dead.

As we drove through the city the scale of the atrocity sunk in further. Human bodies were used beside 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 and most, from my understanding are 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.' At the moment though there simply isn't really anywhere to go.

On the way back our car was full of refugees. It was strange hearing their conversations as they listed the dead. We had just a small number of the many thousands leaving. Many already filling hospitals up North. Our 'unfinished' wards are now being prepared for action. We've bought mattresses, cleaned beds, and got the ward as finished as possible with what we have. Our staff have worked tirelessly on this. We don't know when we will start receiving patients as we will be acting as an overflow facility for the government hospital which struggles on a normal day without the predicted large influx of people.

MARTIN HARRISON, WATER ENGINEER

X-ray of broken bones
"Broken bones are the most common injuries"

I've been living in Ecuador for four years. I'm originally from Yorkshire. I'm with a team of seven medical staff working at the Baptist Haiti Mission hospital on a mountain above Port-au-Prince.

It's a 100-bed hospital and we have at least 300 people here. When we got here there was only one doctor, he was almost falling asleep on his feet from exhaustion and was absolutely delighted to see us.

Injured people are lining the corridors of the hospital and about 50 are outside the gate waiting. We have some security to try and control things and if somebody comes in who is close to death we'll take them in and treat them, otherwise, we've worked out a system where we treat priority cases first.

We're getting a lot of people coming here because they've heard that this hospital is still standing. There are people coming down from the villages. We've heard of three villages that were completely flattened not far from here. One of these was a community of 2,000 people and every single house was destroyed. And people are coming up the mountain from the city too. Yesterday a truck full of injured people arrived.

Broken bones are the most common injuries

The problem is that we're beginning to run out of materials to treat broken bones, which is the most common injury we're seeing. We're trying to ask some of the organisations at the airfield for help with supplies. There's no electricity either - we're using a generator that works on diesel but this will last two days only. In terms of injuries, we're seeing lots of people with gangrene too - it's not a pretty sight.

It's the dry season now and there's no supply of drinking water. I'm a water engineer and I'm meant to be setting up a filtering system today to create a more secure water supply. Our water will be for the hospital initially, and if we have more, we'll hopefully be able to release some to the community.

DAVID DARG

David Darg (left) with Eric Lotz from Operation Blessing
David Darg (left) with Eric Lotz from Operation Blessing

Our emergency paramedic team arrived this morning from Israel. We immediately coupled them with medicines and transported them into the heart of the quake zone and to the National hospital.

Since that moment, the hospital has been inundated with patients with too few doctors to keep up with the influx of emergency cases. The halls are filled with the groans of the untreated, the screams of those undergoing treatment and the stench of those who didn't make it.

The Israeli doctors were incredible; they worked tirelessly and were extremely reluctant to leave with so many patients still waiting to be seen. But we had to pull them back to the airport before nightfall because of the lack of security in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Man being treated in hospital
The National hospital in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Tony Cece

The airport is filling with more and more relief teams every day. The relief camp looks like an Olympic village with national flags flying from nations all over the world.

We came across a soccer field with 2000 people camping in it, many of them sick or injured. They only have one doctor between them, so we have agreed to visit the camp tomorrow and set up a clinic, provide some food and give out hygiene supplies.



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