Port-au-Prince – Authorities in Haiti scrambled to assess the damage caused by a powerful aftershock that rocked Haiti Wednesday morning, shaking unstable buildings and sending panicked people running into the streets only eight days after the country’s capital was devastated by a previous, stronger quake.
The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday’s 6.1-magnitude temblor hit at 6:03 a.m. about 35 miles west of the capital, near the town of Petit-Goave. It struck at a depth of 13.7 miles but was located too far inland to generate any tidal waves in the Caribbean.
Reports of damage in Petit-Goave were unclear, but the aftershock was felt strongly in the capital, where buildings swayed and dropped chunks of concrete.
Frightened survivors wailed in terror, many still coping with the cataclysmic aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude quake that struck Jan. 12.
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the Haitian government dispatched a team, including an airplane, to survey the damage in Petit-Goave, a city of 120,000.
He urged people to remain calm and to avoid compromised buildings, and said that in his own Port-au-Prince neighborhood, Wednesday’s aftershock had crumbled even more homes.
“I’m telling the people to please remain vigilant,” he said. “The best place for people to stay is in the open spaces outside of buildings.”
The shaking briefly sowed panic at a wharf near the Port-au-Prince seaport, where hundreds of families are camped in squalor and hoping for a boat to take them to the countryside.
“We have nowhere else to go,” said Richard Louis, 24, who joined 20 family members at the camp.
The shore was a mass of idling, dusty bodies, muddy suitcases, boxes and flies. A child on two sacks floated in the dirty water. A young man sat in the shell of an old JetSki, fitted with oars, rowing aimlessly in circles.
Refugees had commandeered six idle, rusting ferry boats, moored and with no plans to go anywhere. During the aftershock, the packed boats swayed, but no one left.
In the neighborhood of Canape Vert, chunks of concrete spilled onto a road, shutting it off — and burying a man briefly before neighbors pulled him free.
Capt. Joseph Zahralban, program manager for Florida Task Force 2, said the search and rescue group was at the base of operations at the American Embassy when the aftershock hit.
“The ground started shaking,” he said. “It felt like it was moving side to side. At first we were a little disoriented. Everyone had the same idea to move out of the building to congregate outside.”
The team was continuing missions on Wednesday, tracking back to hotels and areas that have already been searched to make sure nothing was missed.
At a small clothing store downtown, the aftershock exposed a trove of packaged clothes, triggering a frenzied wave of looters. Haitian police chased them off at least three times.
“It’s not their fault. They have to steal it,” said William Dejene, 15.
Bellerive on Wednesday downplayed incidents of violence in the capital, saying it was isolated and that “the population has remained calm.”
“We have two or three vagabonds in the streets who are creating problems,” he said. “But it is not fair to say people are violent.”
Looting appeared to be limited to the downtown commercial center in Port-au-Prince, where many buildings have been abandoned.
It was not possible to immediately ascertain additional damage the new aftershock may have caused, but humanitarian agencies have been reporting extensive damage to cities outside Port-au-Prince.
Bellerive said Canadian troops had opened an airstrip in Jacmel, on the country’s southern coast, to begin delivering aid.
Jacmel and Leogane, about 20 miles west of the capital, have suffered more than 50 percent loss of their housing stock, according to Haitian government officials.
Last week’s 7.0-magnitude killed an estimated 200,000 people in Haiti, left 250,000 injured and made 1.5 million homeless.
Its epicenter was near Leogane, where the main streets are virtually empty, except for a few residents trying to recover bodies buried in the rubble.
Townspeople told The Washington Post that about 500 nuns, priests and students were crushed to death when the walls of the Sainte Rose de Lima School crumbled.
Small international medical teams began arriving Sunday, and they were quickly overwhelmed by the number of severely injured.
Given the extent of the damage to the capital, Haiti’s provinces, historically forgotten by the central government, fear they have been overlooked again at this moment of dire need.
“It’s beginning to move in here slowly,” Pete Buth of Doctors Without Borders, the medical organization, told The Post. “But I’m not going to tell you it’s still any good.”
Buth’s team arrived Sunday evening, five days after the quake. Surgical teams from Japan and Argentina pulled in Monday, setting up an operating suite inside the hospital compound where hundreds of families now live in makeshift shelters.
Aid has been slow to reach Leogane in part because the roads leading into the city are ruined. A giant crack splits the main highway into town in two, leaving a ditch with depths of up to 30 feet.
Officials estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the buildings in the town, which has about 150,000 residents, were heavily damaged.
In Port-au-Prince, humanitarian agencies continued to struggle to meet the overwhelming need for water, food, medical care, fuel and other supplies.
Bellerive said agencies were evaluating how much food and water to deliver to the more than 300 homeless encampments that have formed in Port-au-Prince. One camp, on a golf course near the U.S. ambassador’s home in the Petionville neighborhood, has more than 15,000 people living in tents.
He said the Haitian government wanted to avoid sending too few provisions to the encampments for fear of sparking unrest from people fighting for food and water. “If we do a distribution that is bad,” he said, “the aid could stop.”
As relief agencies and government officials struggled to meet immediate needs, Bellerive said the international community must be prepared for a long-term effort to rebuild the country.
“It’s not something we’re going to resolve in weeks or months,” he said. `It will take years.”
For now, international disaster teams continued to defy odds with improbable rescues eight days after the earthquake. Authorities said close to 100 people have been pulled from wrecked buildings — an increase from the 72 reported early Tuesday.
More than 40 international rescue teams continued to scour the capital and outlying provinces for survivors on Wednesday.
With the principal seaport still in shambles and the Port-au-Prince airport jammed, the international community fought bottlenecks and rising tensions to provide aid to the shattered nation.
Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, deputy commander of the military operation in Haiti, said humanitarian flights into Haiti would increase with the opening of the runway in Jacmel and another airfield near San Isidro, in neighboring Dominican Republic, due to open this week.
Allyn added that U.S. troops were working on repairing the Port-au-Prince seaport and another entry port north of the capital to increase the flow of humanitarian aid, fuel and supplies.
U.S and Haitian government officials and relief agencies have struggled to manage the massive entry of food, water, medicine, heavy equipment, troops, doctors and other supplies as time runs out for rescue workers to find survivors.
But logistics are improving, Allyn said, and more help arrives daily.
Advance teams from the Centers for Disease Control were on the ground Wednesday, meeting with Haitian health ministry officials and visiting hospitals and neighborhoods to assess potential public healthcare threats.
Typhoid and rabies could pose significant risks, said David Daigle, a CDC spokesman.
“Everyone is focused on acute care, but the next phase will be public health,” he said. “We’re worried about typhoid. We know some conditions may in fact turn infectious.”
The USNS Comfort arrived in Port-au-Prince harbor and Tuesday night doctors there treated their first earthquake victims: two Haitians.
U.S. Navy Capt. John Kirby said the fully-equipped, floating hospital has the capacity and medical staff to treat 250 patients.
Kirby said Haiti’s health ministry would decide which patients to triage at the pier and send to the ship.
At downtown’s General Hospital, patients received an unexpected visitor Wednesday: the Rev. Jesse Jackson, touring the crammed facility.
He called the scene “utter devastation.”
“I’ve been to Haiti before and I’ve seen the suffering masses many times — but this is amplified many times,” he told The Miami Herald.
Jackson said the biggest challenge will be reconstruction and ending poverty. Then he paused for the cameras and kissed Mylove Dieu Juste — born at the hospital four days after the Jan. 12 quake.
“When she was born, it was a moment of hope for everyone, even the amputees,” said volunteer midwife Karen Farrell, of Portland, Maine.
Hope has seemed at times a luxury in the aftermath. An estimated 200,000 died in the earthquake and another 1.5 million were made homeless, according to the European Commission.
Haitian government officials have reported recovering more than 70,000 dead bodies from the streets, mostly in the capital.
But massive international relief efforts continue to ramp up.
Military and humanitarian organizations are delivering more water to more parts of the country.
The relief group OXFAM delivered fresh water to Carrefour, a suburb of the capital, on Wednesday, aiming to reach 12,000 people. And sailors aboard the USS Carl Vinson, in Port-au-Prince’s harbor, are bottling desalinated water at rapid rates — delivering about 2,900 gallons ashore on Tuesday.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the agency has distributed food rations for nearly 200,000 people — a small percentage of the three million to 3.5 million people affected by the quake.
Ban said the U.N.’s goal is to increase the number of people receiving food to one million this week and at least two million in the following two weeks.
Badly damaged hospitals also are starting to treat the injured with help from international medical teams.
The University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine said it would be moving its field hospital in Port-au-Prince to a larger, 300-bed tent by Wednesday. The new site will allow doctors to perform surgeries on proper operating tables, and have access to X-ray and ultrasound machines.
“I saw more death in my first day there than I have in 35 years at Jackson,” said Dr. Barth Green, a UM neurosurgeon instrumental to the effort.
Relief workers are overwhelmed by the number of people needing help, but they have also been slowed by fears of visiting some parts of the city because of isolated looting and violence.
Security reinforcements are due to increase after the U.N. said it would add 3,500 police and soldiers to help control outbursts of looting and violence that have slowed distribution of supplies.
The U.N. already posts 7,000 international military peacekeepers in Haiti, as well as a 2,100-strong multinational police force.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said the extra soldiers will provide security escorts for humanitarian convoys and supplement a reserve force in case of widespread unrest.
Arrival of the troops and police depends on the pace of offers from the 191 other U.N. member states.
Le Roy said the Dominican Republic already has offered to send an 800-strong battalion to secure the road from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican border, and they could arrive this week.
Among the structures that collapsed was Port-au-Prince’s main jail, where an estimated 4,000 inmates escaped.
Haiti’s National Police Chief Mario Andresol said that only about 12 have been rearrested, but that despite the collapsed jail, other prison cells remained standing in Port-au-Prince and the outlying provinces.
Police, he said, are not permitted to shoot people who are looting.
“They are hungry. You cannot shoot at people who are hungry,” he said.
The difference between criminals and looters he said, is “criminals, they start shooting at the police officers. The looters are looking around for something to eat.”
The residents of the capital’s Cite Soleil slum cannot count on security forces for help.
The Brazilian peacekeeping unit assigned to Cite Soleil lost 18 of its 145 soldiers in the earthquake, including 10 who died when a nearby U.N. post collapsed — leaving weapons and equipment open to looting.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission also lost its chief, deputy chief and acting police commander, leaving a group largely made up of inexperienced officers.
As U.S. and Haitian officials and relief agencies struggled to bring help to Haiti, Florida’s Department of Emergency Operations said the agency, working with the state’s Department of Children & Families and the Department of Health, has helped bring 4,526 citizens evacuated from the island.
David Halstead, interim director, said 103 evacuees were taken to area hospitals with serious injuries. Most were flown into Homestead Air Reserve Base and an air base in Sanford, Fla.
After flying empty passenger planes on cargo runs in and out of Port-au-Prince since the quake, American Airlines on Tuesday flew 179 civilians from Haiti to Sanford, northeast of Orlando, American spokeswoman Martha Pantin said Tuesday. The Defense Department chartered the plane and the State Department determined which civilians should get seats on the flight, Pantin said.
The flight marked the first time since the Jan. 12 quake that Washington allowed American to fly large numbers of people out on one of its flights. On Monday, the State Department also allowed Spirit Airlines to take a few dozen college students on a plane out of Port-au-Prince.
Both carriers say they’re eager to resume service from Haiti to South Florida, and are just waiting for Washington to approve the Port-au-Prince airport for regular commercial flights.
This report was supplemented with material from The Associated Press. Miami Herald staff writers Charles, Clark, Daniel, Ovalle and Robles contributed to this report from Haiti. Herald staff writers Elinor Brecher, Daniel Chang, Douglas Hanks, Hannah Sampson, Jim Wyss and Luisa Yanez reported from Miami.