Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010

Haitians living in horror and hope

Children at a Canadian orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti
Many young earthquake survivors are filling Haiti's ophanages

By Ian Sherwood
BBC News, Port-au-Prince

The people here in Port-au-Prince have been dealt a terrible blow by Mother Nature, but with tens of thousands dead, the majority of Haitians in this city - in its centre and in its suburbs - stand tall and resolute.

They have seen unimaginable horrors.

On a rubbish tip lies the body of a baby - his or her parents probably victims of the earthquake too; other bodies litter the streets and the grounds of hospitals.

In one, a child with severe head injuries and two broken legs is lying on a dirty floor. Her foot is hanging from the bottom of her leg but her father tells us: "She is a fighter, she doesn't want to die but I am not sure how long she can survive without help. I hope they will come soon."

They are surrounded by many others, all with horrific injuries.

Brazilian rescue team at UN mission
Foreign rescue teams have thousands of collapsed buildings to sift through

The injured lie side-by-side with the dead, the corpses loosely covered by bloodstained white sheets.

But the living still cling to hope.

People walk through the streets of Port-au-Prince wearing face masks. Those without them hold their elbows to their noses or pinch their nostrils.

The pungent smell of death in the searing heat is an awful reality in this city. It is hard to avoid it here where so many have died and days later have still not been buried.

At a collapsed nursing college a crowd quietly waits as a search and rescue team from Brazil desperately looks for survivors in the flattened five-storey building.

The certificates of those due to graduate blow around in the breeze, a poignant reminder that more than 200 who died here on Tuesday were training to help others.

There is hushed silence on the street as one of the rescuers hears something from inside. Word that someone may have survived spreads among those who have gathered around. They stare at the building, a look of hope in their eyes.

As evening light fades and day turns to night the rescue teams leave. The locals hope they will return tomorrow - there are rumours that 25 people here may still be alive, trapped by rubble, dehydrated and in need of food

But despite knowing that there may be survivors, as the sun rises the following day, the search teams do not return.

Stanley does not ask us for help. He and his family have picked themselves up and they are getting on with their lives

On Friday one young man, Stanley, who has helped us get around the city, tells us he is going to visit his sister for a short time and he will be back later.

It was only later in the day we discovered that he had left to attend his grandmother's funeral.

When he returned to see us he never spoke of the funeral and later we learned that his family are sleeping outside next to the rubble of their former home.

They have nowhere else to go. Even so, Stanley does not ask us for help. He and his family have picked themselves up and they are getting on with their lives in the harshest of conditions.

He is a dignified young man and I respect him greatly. I wonder if, in the face of such adversity, I would be as strong as Stanley, or the many other Haitians that I have met in the last few days since this tragedy struck. Would I stand tall and resolute?

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