6.1 magnitude quake hits Haiti, shaking buildings, sending screaming people into the streets

  • Article by: PAUL HAVEN and MICHELLE FAUL , Associated Press
  • Updated: January 20, 2010 - 6:12 AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - A strong earthquake struck Haiti on Wednesday morning, shaking buildings and sending screaming people running into the streets only eight days after the country's capital was devastated by a previous quake.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.1 magnitude quake hit at 6:03 a.m. (1103 GMT) about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince. It struck at a depth of 13.7 miles (22 kilometers) but was located too far inland to generate any tidal waves in the Caribbean.

Wails of terror rose Wednesday from frightened survivors of the apocalyptic quake that struck eight days ago as people as people poured out of unstable buildings.

It was not immediately possible to ascertain what additional damage the new quake may have caused.

Last week's magnitude-7 quake killed an estimated 200,000 people in Haiti, left 250,000 injured and made 1.5 million homeless. A massive international aid effort has been launched, but is struggling with overwhelming logistical problems.

Still, search-and-rescue teams have emerged from the ruins with some improbable success stories — including the rescue of 69-year-old ardent Roman Catholic who said she prayed constantly during her week under the rubble.

Ena Zizi had been at a church meeting at the residence of Haiti's Roman Catholic archbishop when the Jan. 12 quake struck, trapping her in debris. On Tuesday, she was rescued by a Mexican disaster team that was created in the wake of Mexico City's 1985 earthquake.

Zizi said that after the quake, she spoke back and forth with a vicar who also was trapped. But after a few days, he fell silent, and she spent the rest of the time praying and waiting.

"I talked only to my boss, God," she said. "And I didn't need any more humans."

Doctors who examined Zizi on Tuesday said she was dehydrated and had a dislocated hip and a broken leg.

Elsewhere in the capital, two women were pulled from a destroyed university building. And near midnight Tuesday, a smiling and singing 26-year-old Lozama Hotteline was carried to safety from a collapsed store in the Petionville neighborhood by the French aid group Rescuers Without Borders.

Crews at the cathedral compound site Tuesday managed to recover the body of the archbishop, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, who was killed in the Jan. 12 quake.

Authorities said close to 100 people had been pulled from wrecked buildings by international search-and-rescue teams. Efforts continued, with dozens of teams sifting through Port-au-Prince's crumbled homes and buildings for signs of life.

But the good news was overshadowed by the frustrating fact that the world still can't get enough food and water to the hungry and thirsty.

"We need so much. Food, clothes, we need everything. I don't know whose responsibility it is, but they need to give us something soon," said Sophia Eltime, a 29-year-old mother of two who has been living under a bedsheet with seven members of her extended family.

The World Food Program said more than 250,000 ready-to-eat food rations had been distributed in Haiti by Tuesday, reaching only a fraction of the 3 million people thought to be in desperate need.

The WFP said it needs to deliver 100 million ready-to-eat rations in the next 30 days. Based on pledges from the United States, Italy and Denmark, it has 16 million in the pipeline.

Even as U.S. troops landed in Seahawk helicopters Tuesday on the manicured lawn of the ruined National Palace, the colossal efforts to help Haiti were proving inadequate because of the scale of the disaster and the limitations of the world's governments. Expectations exceeded what money, will and military might have been able to achieve.

So far, international relief efforts have been unorganized, disjointed and insufficient to satisfy the great need. Doctors Without Borders says a plane carrying urgently needed surgical equipment and drugs has been turned away five times, even though the agency received advance authorization to land.

A statement from Partners in Health, co-founded by the deputy U.N. envoy to Haiti, Dr. Paul Farmer, said the group's medical director estimated 20,000 people are dying each day who could be saved by surgery.

"TENS OF THOUSANDS OF EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS NEED EMERGENCY SURGICAL CARE NOW!!!!!" Farmer said in the statement.

The reasons are varied:

_ Both national and international authorities suffered great losses in the quake, taking out many of the leaders best suited to organize a response.

_ Woefully inadequate infrastructure and a near-complete failure in telephone and Internet communications complicate efforts to reach millions of people forced from homes turned into piles of rubble.

_ Fears of looting and violence keep aid groups and governments from moving as quickly as they'd like.

_ Pre-existing poverty and malnutrition put some at risk even before the quake hit.

Governments have pledged nearly $1 billion in aid, and thousands of tons of food and medical supplies have been shipped. But much remains trapped in warehouses, or diverted to the neighboring Dominican Republic. The nonfunctioning seaport and impassable roads complicate efforts to get aid to the people.

Aid is being turned back from the single-runway airport, where the U.S. military has been criticized by some of poorly prioritizing flights. The U.S. Air Force said it had raised the facility's daily capacity from 30 flights before the quake to 180 on Tuesday.

About 2,200 U.S. Marines established a beachhead west of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday to help speed aid delivery, in addition to 9,000 Army soldiers already on the ground. Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military spokesman, said helicopters were ferrying aid from the airport into Port-au-Prince and the nearby town of Jacmel as fast as they could.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that the military will send a port-clearing ship with cranes aboard to Port-au-Prince. It will be used to remove debris that is preventing many larger ships carrying relief supplies from docking.

The U.N. was sending in reinforcements as well: The Security Council voted Tuesday to add 2,000 peacekeepers to the 7,000 already in Haiti, and 1,500 more police to the 2,100-strong international force.

"The floodgates for aid are starting to open," Matthews said at the airport. "In the first few days, you're limited by manpower, but we're starting to bring people in."

The WFP's Alain Jaffre said the U.N. agency was starting to find its stride after distribution problems, and hoped to help 100,000 people by Wednesday.

Hanging over the entire effort was an overwhelming fear among relief officials that Haitians' desperation would boil over into violence.

"We've very concerned about the level of security we need around our people when we're doing distributions," said Graham Tardif, who heads disaster-relief efforts for the charity World Vision. The U.N., the U.S. government and other organizations echoed such fears.

Occasionally, those fears have been borne out. Looters rampaged through part of downtown Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, just four blocks from where U.S. troops landed at the presidential palace.

Hundreds of looters fought over bolts of cloth and other goods with broken bottles and clubs.

___

Associated Press writers contributing include Paul Haven, Michael Melia, Jonathan M. Katz, Michelle Faul and Vivian Sequera in Port-au-Prince; medical writer Margie Mason in Hanoi, Vietnam; Charles J. Hanley in Mexico City; Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; and Seth Borenstein, Pauline Jelinek, Anne Flaherty and Jennifer Loven in Washington.

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