Page last updated at 09:51 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Haiti quake: Aid workers' diaries, Saturday 16 January

Supplies carried out of plane
Supplies arrive in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Tony Cece

Rescue teams and supplies are slowly starting to get to some people in Haiti's capital.

British aid workers are among those involved with helping victims of Tuesday's earthquake. The following people are sharing their diaries with us:

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


We have just arrived in Port-au-Prince to search for the children of one of our staff and provide emergency aid with our 4x4 ambulance.

Our appeal's ambulance had been filled with water sachets, medication, first aid equipment, clothes, and some small supplies of food rations. Such aid was but a speck of dust amidst this great ocean of suffering. However, with aid only just arriving from abroad, it was a welcome respite to many.

I watched as women and children danced and sang their thanks for one sachet of water that costs less than 5p (8 US cents). Our little ambulance soon became a powerful magnet of need. Women, children and men of all ages would stare through our window pleading even for one small bit of food.

Our driver became 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.

As we drove on, the scale of this tragedy began to unfold. The rotting bodies of victims lay piled along many of the streets. Most were covered in old, dirty sheets scarcely large enough to hide the tragic images below. Make shift coffins occasionally weaved in and out of the crowds of people, carried by groups of men.

One of our main objectives had been to search for the children of one of our staff. Our employee Simone had waited three days to find out whether her four children had survived. The relief was incredible as she heard the news that her family were alive. There aren't many glimmers of hope but when you find them, you cherish them.


1300 local time (1900GMT)

We are working like crazy. Everyone very tired and filthy. Racing against the clock. Just pinned down the location of a trapped two-year-old and dispatched a team to attempt a rescue. UK team had some successes but one agonising failure when an 18-year-old girl died minutes away from rescue. Too busy to be sad.

Charity worker Stuart Coles
Stuart Coles is travelling to Haiti with children's charity Plan International

The Dominican Republic has given us a false sense of security. Haiti would not like to be described as its poor neighbour, but the contrast is stark.

The nearer we inch towards Port-au-Prince, the worst the damage. It is a drive through hell - I try to focus on filming as we pass bodies lying where they fell on the street, coffins being carried and buildings being levelled by bulldozers. We don't know if there are still people inside as we pass.

We meet with our local Plan Haiti colleagues, who explain their experiences and what they have been doing. While handing out vital food, shelter and hygiene kits, they have been dealing with their own personal trauma and loss.

We know the psychological impact on children will be huge and hidden, it is visible in the strained faces of adult colleagues.

Our next target is to help the people of Jacmel, a coastal town of some 150,000 people where reportedly 65% of homes are badly damaged, away from the glare of the media.

US Army helicopters constantly deafen out our emergency meeting but everyone knows the military presence is vital in this landscape with no open shops or banks. There are fears of looting and there's a desperate need for more help soon.


Haitian wearing mask
The smell of death lingers in Port-au-Prince. Picture: David Darg

We're in - after a long struggle, we were finally able to get two seats on a plane.

As soon as we ventured into Port-au-Prince, we were met with horrific scenes of injured Haitians lining the pavement, desperate for medical attention.

Many Haitians are wearing coverings over their mouths and noses to hide the pungent smell of death that lingers in the air.

In the heat people are desperate for water. We saw small children bathing in and drinking from a muddy puddle. As the desperation amongst the survivors grows, so does the anxiety and frustration.

Some people are also carrying belongings along the streets in suitcases or on their heads, there seems to be quite a migration of people from what is left of the city.

This has been one of the most difficult launches to a disaster that I have experienced but the delays at the airport are a sign that the world is reaching out to Haiti like never before.

Medical centre
Medical centres have sprung up in the capital. Picture: David Darg

The Spanish rescue team that we have been shuttling into the quake zone came back with disappointing news that they had only found dead bodies today. Most rescuers are now suggesting that due to the intense heat it is very unlikely any more survivors will be found.

We are gearing up for emergency food distributions at medical clinics staged out of a damaged primary school.

I just ate a US military ready to eat meal and hope to sleep soon. My mat and sleeping bag on the hangar floor will not be too uncomfortable but huge cargo planes roaring down the runway just a few hundred yards away might make it for another long night.

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