Frontline sharing of Haiti earthquake relief work (17/1/2010)

© Julie REMY

The situation remains critical, few aid agencies in place, still hundreds of bodies stuck in buildings. I've only seen about 4 or 5 trucks and cranes trying to remove buildings to get people out, in the entire city!!! The smell can be overwhelming in some areas, where corpses are rotting in the heat, and near Internal Displaced Persons gatherings, because there is no sanitation, no showers, no latrines, and people are gathering in the hundreds anywhere where there is open space in the city. At night, we must be careful not to run over people who are sleeping on the roads. I saw one person sleep in the middle of an intersection, just to avoid any buildings that may fall if there is another earthquake. Yesterday, we experienced two more tremors. When the medical team starting doing their work in the Carrefour operational theatre, the national staff stayed working when the first tremor hit. But when the second one happened, the nurses ran away, dropping everything they were doing on the spot!!! People are very edgy still and afraid of sleeping indoors. I am a bit worried myself and I didn't even go through the earthquake (we're sleeping in a trigano tent in a hotel courtyard because there is not enough room for all the expats at the office). Yesterday Saturday, we did several surgical interventions, this was only 24 hours after setting up the operational theatre!!! This is totally amazing considering that the team went to Carrefour on Friday afternoon to start the setup, only 2 hours after the head of mission, myself and a nurse visited the empty hospital on Friday morning to do the assessment. I am in awe of the work and the speed of our teams to set up this new functional operational theatre in less than 24 hours!!

© Bruno STEVENS/ Cosmos

On my way back from an assessment in Leogane (about 1 hour from PaP) in the dark around 6 pm yesterday, we crossed some check points set up by civilians. They were jumping on a pick-up truck, that was carrying a load of corpses. They were very angry because the driver was going to dump the corpses in their town. So there were check points set up from that point on, all the way to PaP, about 10 km. People were angry about this but i would be too, if someone was dumping corpses in my town! When we crossed the checkpoints they let us through no problem and show respect for us. Small fires are burning in the street, the air is smoky and smelly, and buildings, concrete, wires, and debris are strewn everywhere onto the streets. There are not so many crowds where we are based in Petionville, although on the laneway going up to our other house, there are people sleeping in the street, blocking their road access. And last night we could smell that horrible smell, because the windows are open in the house. That team is under a lot of stress because they have extremely limited surgical capabilities. I spoke to a surgeon yesterday, and he was so frustrated and stressed about the fact that 5 patients he saw yesterday needed immediate surgery!! But he can't save their lives because they don't have a proper operational theatre. We need more space to perform surgeries, which the inflatable hospital will provide if it ever arrives!! So, it's getting worse because the patients who were not critical only 3 days ago, are now in critical phases : this means that people will die from preventable infections.  It's horrible, it's really so terrible that people are begging for help and we can't help them all to save their lives! Isabelle (MSF Press Officer)