Aftershock Provokes More Panic, Looting In Haiti

  • One Haitian man attacks another, in a dispute over goods from a collapsed supermarket in Port-au-Prince, on Wednesday.
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    One Haitian man attacks another, in a dispute over goods from a collapsed supermarket in Port-au-Prince, on Wednesday.
    All photos by David Gilkey/NPR
  • A boy jumps from a pile of rubble after police fired shots in the commercial district of downtown Port-au-Prince.
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    A boy jumps from a pile of rubble after police fired shots in the commercial district of downtown Port-au-Prince.
  • Two Haitians carry away a mirror, which reflects local police officers in the distance.
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    Two Haitians carry away a mirror, which reflects local police officers in the distance.
  • A store owner stands guard over a cosmetic shop as workers load the stock into a truck for safeguarding.
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    A store owner stands guard over a cosmetic shop as workers load the stock into a truck for safeguarding.
  • Haitians scramble off the roof of a collapsed supermarket, their arms full of items lifted from the store.
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    Haitians scramble off the roof of a collapsed supermarket, their arms full of items lifted from the store.
  • A little girl runs down the street crying after a group of men took the bag of goods she had gathered from a collapsed market.
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    A little girl runs down the street crying after a group of men took the bag of goods she had gathered from a collapsed market.
  • Men fight over shoes procured from the rubble of the market.
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    Men fight over shoes procured from the rubble of the market.
  • A man runs past a police truck with a stolen plastic table as the situation unravels in downtown Port-au-Prince.
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    A man runs past a police truck with a stolen plastic table as the situation unravels in downtown Port-au-Prince.

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One of the most powerful aftershocks since last week's devastating earthquake jolted Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, prompting shaken residents to rush into the streets in fear and more desperate scavenging of the city.

After waiting for more than a week for relief deliveries that still haven't reached many in the capital, hundreds of desperate Haitians scoured stores in the main commercial district searching for food and items they could sell.

A crowd of about 200 people swarmed around the remains of a downtown supermarket. Young men scrambled up slabs of concrete and climbed over debris and razor wire to get to a hole in the store's ceiling. They scrambled back down with boxes of Pringles, soap and Presidente beer among other items.

One man defended his loot from the mob on the street with a champagne bottle, while another wielded a stick studded with nails.

A young girl about 9 years old emerged with a bag overflowing with toothpaste, plastic dolls and other goods. People in the crowd ripped it away, leaving her empty-handed and in tears.

The only lull in the frenzy came when a Haitian police vehicle drove by and officers fired several warning shots into the air. The police then moved on and the looting continued.

"It's dangerous in there. People stabbing, hitting each other with sticks," said David Martine, who was standing off to the side of the crowd munching from a can potato chips he had just picked up inside.

Martine said he hustled into the store to try to get something to eat, but he would not go back in because of the complete chaos inside the collapsed supermarket.

Haiti Aftershock

Map showing faukt lines and recent earthquake activity in Haiti

Scenes like this flared in various parts of the city's downtown commercial district, where many buildings have collapsed entirely and almost all the ones still standing are cracked and crumbling.

Around the corner from the supermarket, Gentile Jean Guillet held a new pair of white sneakers that he had just liberated from a toppled shoe store.

"You know it's misery, it's hunger, and nobody's giving us anything," he said. "Our houses are broken down. So people are just going in there to get what they can so they can eat."

He said he planned to sell the athletic shoes to buy food.

Next to the ruins of the city's historic Iron Market, a bazaar for food and goods, Stanley Dura and his brother passed out shotgun shells to the local security guards. Dura owns a cosmetics shop.

"We got to give them shells. They don't even got shells. They don't even have bullets," Dura said.

Dura, armed with a Glock 9 mm pistol and plenty of ammunition, unloaded the contents of his store into a truck while he still could.

"There's a lot of robbers. So we are trying to get our merchandise out. Thank God our store is not crashed down so we can get our merchandise out," he said.

Dura says he expects this entire section of downtown Port-au-Prince will have to be bulldozed.

"They're going to have to flatten everything down because it's not safe anymore," he said. "Everything is cracked. So they're going to have to flatten everything."

He doesn't know when the commercial district will be demolished and cleared but he said the rebuilding of the Haitian capital could take years.

For now, people are doing whatever they can to survive. Even the building debris is being carted off — residents use it to block off sections of roadway on which to sleep.

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