Chaotic Conditions in Port-au-Prince Limit Rescue, Recovery

The Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince remained in a state of disorder and confusion on Jan. 13 and little information was available on the number of casualties resulting from a devastating earthquake, a spokesman for Catholic Relief Services said. "It is chaos there. Nobody knows how many people are killed or injured at this point," John Rivera, CRS director of communications, said.

Catholic Relief Services was preparing for "thousands and thousands" of dead and injured people in the wake of the worst earthquake to strike Haiti in two centuries, said Karel Zelenka, the agency's country representative. In an e-mail from the capital, Port-au-Prince, Zelenka told his colleagues at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that damage was "incredible all around."

In response, CRS initially has committed $5 million to help survivors, said Rivera. CRS already had food, bedding, water storage containers and other supplies in warehouses around the country and agency staff is working to assess if they were damaged in the quake. Other supplies will be shipped from the Dominican Republic and Miami, he said.

Meanwhile, seriously injured Americans were being evacuated throughout the day Wednesday. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said a military team was on the ground assessing the situation in preparation for the U.S. response to the disaster.

Detailed reports of casualties nearly a day after the magnitude 7 quake shook the area around the capital were limited because telephone, cell phone and Internet services were sporadic. In addition, rescue and recovery efforts were constrained by a lack of emergency equipment and heavy machinery. People were reported to be digging through rubble by hand in heroic efforts to rescue people and recover bodies. The few casualty reports that were received came during brief exchanges between Americans working in Haiti on a variety of projects and their sponsors in the U.S.

The victims included Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince. "The lifeless body of Archbishop Joseph Miot of Port-au-Prince was found this morning under the rubble of the archbishops' residence," L'Osservatore Romano reported Wednesday. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's apostolic nuncio in Haiti, said: "Port-au-Prince is completely devastated. The cathedral and the archbishop's residence, all the big churches, all the seminaries are reduced to rubble."

Dr. Zilda Arns Neumann, 75, a pediatrician who founded the Brazilian bishops' children's ministry, was among those who died in the Haitian earthquake. She was in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, to participate in missionary meetings and to help the Caribbean country consolidate its children's ministry and create a methodology to combat malnutrition. Neumann was known throughout Brazil for her dedication to improving the health and quality of life of children. She was the sister of Sao Paulo's retired archbishop, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns. In an interview Cardinal Arns said that his sister died a "beautiful death, because she died for a cause she always believed in."

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

“My folks taught us that if someone is hungry, you feed them. That if someone is thirsty, you give them drink. If someone is a stranger you welcome them into your home.”
Michael O'LoughlinFebruary 27, 2017
Almost all major cities in the United States have experienced major decreases in violent crime over the past 25 years.
James T. KeaneFebruary 24, 2017
This is not a country at ease with itself, if it ever were. The United Kingdom continues to display more and more intolerance and anger.
David StewartFebruary 24, 2017

On St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrate our Irish heritage and our good fortune to be Americans.

George J. MitchellFebruary 24, 2017