PORT-AU-PRINCE-The Haitian government has called off the search-and-rescue effort in Port-au-Prince, saying little hope remains of finding survivors 11 days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake flattened large portions of the nation's capital.
But as of Friday afternoon, large swaths of the capital appeared untouched, with only a handful of earthmoving machines visible during a drive through the streets of Port-au-Prince. Massive piles of concrete rubble appeared frozen in the places they fell during last week's earthquake. In some spots, handfuls of men with only shovels and wheelbarrows began clearing away two-stories' worth of concrete into packed streets. Others stood on the precarious second floors of exposed homes, pounding the broken remains with sledgehammers.
Some Haitians believe survivors might remain trapped, especially after workers pulled two people alive from the rubble yesterday. If the last of survivors have died, one thing is certain: scores of bodies remain. Outside one large building downtown, some Haitians had marked the unexpected grave of those entombed inside. Scrawled on the concrete wall were the words: "Please help. Lots of bodies inside."
As Haitian officials consider how to clear the massive damage in Port-au-Prince and beyond, they are also making plans for more immediate needs: providing better shelter for hundreds of thousands of Haitians baking in tent cities with mounting sanitation woes. That miserable situation may begin to improve next week: At a meeting Saturday morning of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at a UN building in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian government approved The Salvation Army as one of the first groups to officially provide shelter supplies and other aid at a set location in the city-the beginnings of formal camps. The UN is making plans to open several more camps in conjunction with the Haitian government to shelter as many as 400,000.
Haitian officials are asking NGO workers who want to provide ongoing help to a set population to apply to the government with specific details: the exact location (including GPS coordinates), the number of people already squatting in the area, and the aid planned. Haitian officials will then decide if they approve of a camp on that plot of land.
Early signs indicate that process could work quickly. According to information provided by the UN at the Saturday morning meeting, Haitian officials approved The Salvation Army's request within 48 hours.
Haitian officials are asking NGOs to inquire about another important detail with homeless populations: Is your home habitable? Though many homes are destroyed or clearly unstable, others appear they might be safe. But Haitians are afraid to return to buildings they think might be damaged, and remain camped outside seemingly intact homes.
Engineers like Scott Powell of the non-profit Engineering Ministries International can provide an assessment in just a few minutes. On a recent afternoon, Powell walked the perimeter and interior of a pastor's home in Petit-Goave, a hard-hit town southwest of the capital. Within 15 minutes, he told the fearful family that the structure was safe to inhabit. He hopes more engineers can provide such assessments, and give some Haitians what others will likely go long without: a home.
'Still in shock' | Haiti is hit by a massive earthquake followed by aftershocks, with an epicenter near the capital, Port-au-Prince | Mindy Belz and Jamie Dean | Jan. 12, 2010
Helping Haiti | WORLD provides a list of relief organizations accepting donations to assist earthquake victims in Haiti | The Editors | Jan. 13, 2010
Search and rescue | U.S. disaster experts, the U.S. military, and private relief groups head to earthquake-devastated Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 13, 2010
In the dark | Haitian-Americans hope to contact loved ones and quickly send aid back home to family and friends | Alisa Harris | Jan. 13, 2010
Weeping and waiting | Haitian earthquake victims await help, but obstacles slow relief efforts | Jamie Dean | Jan. 14, 2010
Desperation | Too many Haitians are in a holding pattern awaiting aid, as relief organizations try to make progress | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Long night | With tens of thousands of casualties, Haitians weep and wait for morning | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Deliverance | A group of orphans arrive safely in Pittsburgh while relief organizations report progress in Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 19, 2010
Crying for help | Hard-pressed Haitians seek assistance as aid groups face logistical challenges | Jamie Dean | Jan. 21, 2010
Leaving Port | Beyond the capital city are rural communities equally devastated by the quake and in need of help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
The new normal | As life and death continue their morbid mingling, relief groups forge ahead to help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
Chaotic aid | Relief groups attempt to help Haitians despite murky rules, government interference, and the lack of a cohesive plan | Jamie Dean | Jan. 28, 2010
Aftershock | Caregivers predict a second wave of death, as Haitians find moments of deliverance amid days of devastation from one of the modern world's worst natural disasters | Jamie Dean | Jan. 29, 2010
Homecoming | For Haitians orphaned before the quake, it means leaving home and starting over | Alisa Harris | Jan. 29, 2010
Crisis giving | Instant need calls for long-term strategy | Rusty Leonard | Jan. 29, 2010
An indecent grief | First lamentations, then comfort that strengthens more than soothes | Mindy Belz | Jan. 29, 2010
Hope for Haiti? (audio file) | Hear WORLD news editor Jamie Dean discuss her visit to the earthquake-ravaged country | Nick Eicher | Feb. 1, 2010
Despair and salvation | While the UN grapples with unruly crowds, The Salvation Army peacefully distributes food | Jamie Dean | Feb. 2, 2010
Crossing lines | Failing to heed sound advice, 10 Americans now find themselves facing kidnapping charges in Haiti | Jamie Dean | Feb. 4, 2010
Haiti's plight (audio file) | A discussion of the country's days of devastation and moments of deliverance | Jamie Dean | Feb. 5, 2010
Stress management | Helping Haitians recover takes zeal-with wisdom | Jamie Dean | Feb. 12, 2010
Taking charge | In quake aftermath, build new cities, says Haitian ambassador (and Bible translator) Raymond Joseph | Mindy Belz | Feb. 12, 2010
Houses of God | Grand-Goave, Haiti | The Editors | Feb. 12, 2010
Living water | Water Missions International offers long-term solutions for clean, drinkable water | Angela Lu | Feb. 13, 2010
Building blocks | While Christian Aid Ministries provides for the immediate needs of quake victims, it looks ahead to helping the country rebuild | Angela Lu | Feb. 16, 2010
Close quarters | ActionAid helps homeless Haitians deal with sanitation and security issues at camps set up in Port-au-Prince | Angela Lu | Feb. 23, 2010
Hardest hit | With nearly half a million orphaned children before the quake, Haiti's challenge to parent them just got bigger | Jamie Dean | Feb. 26, 2010
The search for miracles | Port-au-Prince is a city desperately seeking turnaround-and that's before the earthquake | Jamie Dean | March 12, 2010
Hope in the darkness | World Hope International offers Haitians practical assistance and spiritual guidance | Angela Lu | March 24, 2010
Night crawlers | A new disaster threatens defenseless women and children in Haitian tent cities: rape | Jamie Dean | March 25, 2010
Homecoming | Missionary Patrick Lataillade, who nearly died in the quake, returned to help Haitians this week | Angela Lu | March 27, 2010
Hashing out Haiti | As the UN makes recovery plans, Haitians struggle for the basic necessities for survival | Jamie Dean | March 31, 2010