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Hope of Finding Earthquake Survivors Fading

Hope of Finding Earthquake Survivors Fading

Emergency medical team members take care of Haiti earthquake survivors after arriving on a French flight at Pole Caraibes airport in Pointe-a-Pitre on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe late January 14, 2010. Thousands of people injured in Haiti's

Dallas Morning News via YellowBrix

January 15, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The distance between life and death narrowed in this flattened city Thursday, with survival depending on the luck of being freed from under rubble, on treating the thousands of wounded, and on speeding the flow of emergency food and water.

Two days after a huge earthquake struck the capital, the international Red Cross estimated the number of deaths at between 45,000 and 50,000.

Haitian President Rene Preval said 7,000 people had already been buried in a mass grave. Hundreds of corpses piled up outside the city’s morgue. On street corners, people pulled their shirts over their faces to filter out the thickening smell of the dead.

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President Barack Obama promised $100 million in aid, and the first wave of a projected 5,000 U.S. troops began arriving to provide security and help coordinate the expected flood of aid from around the world.

“You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten,” Obama told the Haitian people in an emotional address at the White House. “In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you.”

Help was only beginning to arrive Thursday as the U.S. military took over the wrecked air traffic control system to land cargo planes with food and water. But the airport was clogged and chaotic, with little or no fuel for planes to return.

“Donations are coming in to the airport here, but there is not yet a system to get it in,” said Kate Conradt, a spokeswoman for Save the Children.

Doctors and search-and-rescue teams worked mostly with the few materials in hand and waited, frustrated, for more supplies.

“Where’s the response?” asked Eduardo Fierro, a structural engineer from California who arrived earlier in the day to inspect quake-damaged buildings. “You can’t do anything about the dead bodies, but inside many of these buildings people may still be alive. And their time is running out.”

Heavy damage to at least eight Port-au-Prince hospitals severely hampered efforts to treat the many thousands of injured, the World Health Organization said in Geneva.

At least 2,000 injured were reported to have been treated at hospitals next door in the Dominican Republic, including the president of the Haitian Senate, Kelly Bestien.

U.N. officials said Haitians were growing hopeless – and starting to run out of patience.