Haiti earthquake: survivors' stories

Haitians describe 20 seconds of shaking and then the horrific aftermath of the disaster in Port-au-Prince

It sounded like a tornado, followed by a bomb dropping. Then the noise under the ground started, said Frantz Florestal, from Atlanta, who was visiting Port-au-Prince.

"You heard the noise under the ground and it's shaking and shaking, and everybody started running," Florestal told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Houses were falling and falling, all of the fences were falling, people were falling, people were crying."

Twenty seconds later it was over, he said. There was nothing but rubble and dirt.

"You cannot see the air. All of a sudden it's dark," he said. "After that you saw the sun, the sun was falling under the horizon."

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aid worker Danielle Trépanier was rescued yesterday afternoon after almost 24 hours under the rubble of a collapsed staff house.

At the time of the quake Trépanier, a Canadian logistician-administrator, was resting in her bedroom on the second storey because she had been feeling ill.

Trépanier fell through two floors and landed in a small space in the basement under a mass of debris.

The organisation said local employees had risked their lives to save Trépanier from the basement, knowing from her intermittent cries for help that hope was not lost. When they pulled her out she was bewildered, in shock, with minor injuries. She has been in contact with her family and is recovering.

The BBC correspondent Matthew Price was among the first British reporters to the scene. "This is a particularly grim sight," Price reported from a hospital in the capital.

"The stench is overwhelming. There are over 100 bodies here, adults and, at my feet, a baby. Perhaps even more uncomfortable is that there are people bedding down for the night … sleeping among the dead."

Price said a "handful" of doctors were trying to tend the wounded. A man called Nicolas told him his daughter had suffered two broken legs when the radio station building at which she worked collapsed. "Her mother is helping her because the doctors do not have the proper materials to help her."

Wayne Snow was born in the US but moved to Haiti when he was two years old. He works for Youth with a Mission in Haiti. He told KLTV: "They have bodies that are just piled up along the sides of the roads, and the hospital has also been damaged by the earthquake. We watched as people tried to dig other people out. Some were living and some were not.

"We have water trucks that they're driving around the city getting water to those that need it. But there are several water pipes in the city that have been broken. So the water situation is grave as well. Fresh water is hard to get."

Wisnel Occilus, a 24-year-old student, was in an English class when the building collapsed. "The professor is dead. Some of the students are dead, too," said Occilus, who suspected he had several broken bones. "Everything hurts."

Hotel Villa Creole employee Dermene Duma told of a group of women singing traditional religious songs during the night. "They sing because they want God to do something. They want God to help them. We all do." Duma lost four relatives in the earthquake.

Foreigners slept around the hotel's pool and scores of injured Haitians lay outside the damaged hotel. Bodies were visible all around the hilly city: under rubble, lying beside roads, being loaded into trucks. Scattered bodies were laid out on pavements wrapped neatly in sheets and blankets. Voices cried out from the rubble.


James Sturcke

The GuardianTramp

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