Foreign Rescue Teams Waste No Time In Haiti

A massive rescue effort is underway in Haiti following Tuesday's earthquake. Thousands of people are injured and are waiting to be attended to. An emergency medical team from the University of Miami go to work the minute they landed in Port-au-Prince.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DEBORAH AMOS, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Deborah Amos, in for Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

We're going to take a journey this morning across the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. It's one of the largest cities in the Caribbean, and it was struck this week by an earthquake.

AMOS: Nobody knows the number of dead or wounded, and in any case, a mere number would tell you less than the devastation that stretches for miles.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Kahn has arrived in Haiti. She's on the line. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: How did you arrive in Port-au-Prince?

KAHN: I jumped on a private plane that was donated to a group called Global Institute. They are a group of doctors that work at the University of Miami, and they are trauma doctors. And about six of them came down and took a couple of reporters on the plane. And we landed in the airport and, Steve, it was incredible. These doctors were rushed to an ad-hoc triage center that was set up at the U.N. complex there at the airport. And they were working within five minutes of having their feet on the ground, and they were - I didn't see them stop the whole evening. They were working so hard. And there were hundreds of people, and they were in terrible, terrible shape.

INSKEEP: How were the people getting to the airport?

KAHN: It was incredible. I saw one man being wheeled there in a wheelbarrow. People told me that these were the lucky ones. A lot of the people were foreign nationals. Some of them were U.N. employees. But a lot of them, I came to learn, were at the Hotel Montana, which was a popular hotel in Port-au-Prince, and it was a seven-story hotel that has collapsed, and these were the survivors there. They were just people working at the hotel, staying at the hotel, and they had incredible stories.

One man told me he was trapped in the rubble for 16 hours and finally got out. And most of the people at the center had broken limbs, they had spinal injuries, they had internal bleeding. And I watched the doctors just work on them for hours. And late at night, by the time I left at about 10:00 o'clock last night, they had lost four people to minor injuries that they said that if they were in Miami would have been easily, easily cured.

INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Carrie Kahn. She's in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, which suffered an earthquake this week. And Carrie, what of the city have you been able to see since arriving yesterday?

KAHN: I left the airport at about 10:30 last night, and the city was completely dark. And it was difficult to see, but as you came to these neighborhoods, it reminded me of some of the firestorms that I covered in California where you'd see a house that was perfectly fine and the next one, right next door was leveled to the ground. You could just tell which buildings were able to keep standing were the ones that had better construction, and there was no better example of that as we passed a huge U.S. embassy compound, just mighty cement and steel, and it was perfectly fine and well lit, yet across the street, crumpled to the ground was a huge department store.

And as we came up into the hills of Port-au-Prince, into some of these neighborhoods, there were massive amount of people on the move. Just out of nowhere, they were just trying to find shelter. And you could see more and more damage, just huge buildings falling over on cars, falling over on other buildings. And people were sleeping in the streets. It was just a horrifying sight.

INSKEEP: I suppose even at that point, there must still have been people trying to dig survivors or possible survivors out of the rubble.

KAHN: They still are. We were up in the hills, here. It was about 11:00 o'clock at night and we saw people carrying a woman, out of what was - I was told it was one of the collapsed hospitals on a board. And so people are gathering in these - these horrible scenes of trying to dig for people. I heard about it down at the hospital, the medical center down at the airport, people were just telling it - hearing people crying and screaming, I'm still alive. I'm still alive. Help me. And just - people were helpless.

INSKEEP: And just to be clear, Carrie Kahn, it sounds like in your trip across much of the city, it was very clear to you that this damage is extremely widespread. It is a vast amount of Port-au-Prince that is damaged or destroyed here.

KAHN: I've heard reports that as many as three million people are affected, hundreds and thousands of homes. It is widespread, everywhere you go. I'm at a hotel here. This hotel has been damaged itself, and the roof has collapsed and two of the stories are pancaked. It's sort of is a V-shape in the middle of the hotel. It's really a nightmare here. Not many of the rooms are occupied, but people are laying body-to-body on the ground of this once beautiful hotel.

And they're on the road all the way up to the hotel, and those that can make it in the compound are everywhere, mostly around the pool. And they've grabbed pillows, cushions, table-cloths, whatever they can to find some sort of makeshift bed. And about 2:00 o'clock this morning, there was a huge aftershock, just a big jolt, and everybody was up and awake. And you could probably hear babies crying and people still moaning from - this is the second night that people have been out in the elements with injuries unattended to. It's definitely a terrible, terrible situation here.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Carrie, thanks very much.

KAHN: Thank you, Steve.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.