Red Cross Estimates Up To 50,000 Dead In Haiti

It has been two days now since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, to its core. The Red Cross Federation now estimates the death toll at 45,000 to 50,000. For the tens of thousands of injured, many of the region's hospitals have been severely damaged — and outside medical and rescue groups are still struggling to reach the hardest-hit areas. Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Carrie Kahn, who is in Port-au-Prince, about the unfolding humanitarian crisis there.

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

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour with the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Haiti. It's been two days now since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, to its core. The Red Cross now estimates the deaths toll at 45,000 to 50,000. For the tens of thousands of injured, many of the region's hospitals have been severely damaged and outside medical and rescue groups are still struggling to reach the hardest hit areas. Medics, search and rescue teams, and other forms of aid are arriving, but the magnitude of the disaster is overwhelming relief efforts. The White House says as many as 5,500 U.S. infantry and Marines will be in Haiti or on ships offshore by Monday.

NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Port-au-Prince and she joins us now. And Carrie, as we've said, it's been two days since the earthquake hit. How would you describe the situation in the capital, Port-au-Prince?

CARRIE KAHN: Well, I think what you've said, it hits on the mark exactly. It's just overwhelming massive destruction. Every street you go down, every neighborhood you go to, there is a pile of crumbled buildings. There are desperate people still trying to pull bodies out. There are dead bodies all over the street, ever corner that we turn. We went on a three-hour walk through the hillside of Port-au-Prince today. And every corner we turned there were more dead bodies. There was a mother with two small children on top of her. As you said, it's two full days since the earthquake hit.

SIEGEL: Have you seen any successful rescues of people from the rubble?

KAHN: I have not. I haven't seen any successful. I've seen heart-wrenching attempts by people. There is no government help and what you see are people with sledge hammers, sticks, their bare hands. What they are do is they put towels or cloths around their hands and then they put plastic bags over it and wrap tape or whatever they can so that they're not cut while they're going to the rubble themselves, putting up supports as they go. We saw several bodies being pulled out and it's just heart wrenching to hear these people crying and screaming and struggling up hillsides in dangerous conditions. They're trying to get their loved ones out.

SIEGEL: What are you seeing in the way of either Haitian Police or U.N. Forces maintaining law and order? Have you seen any lawlessness, for example?

KAHN: I have not. I've seen struggles at the gas pump. I see people are desperately trying to fill up gallon jugs. But on the contrary, what I've seen is just amazing neighbor helping neighbor, people helping as much as they can. We met this one man at a clinic today, who his whole family survived, but he came to this clinic to just hold the hands of people who have no one left. He was sitting there with an eight-year-old girl who lost her entire family. And he brought her food and he was just sitting there, trying to comfort her. We've just seen some amazing humanitarian efforts of these people that are suffering so much.

SIEGEL: Any sign of a broader distribution of food and water to people by aid agencies or authorities?

KAHN: I've seen nothing here on the hillsides of Port-au-Prince, Robert, nothing. I did see one police unit in the middle of the street just sitting there in their car, while people were all around them. And at the end, all they would do is hand a few people a very, very tiny pouch of water. People are frantic. They say this is nearly the third day that they are spending without any food, any water from the government.

SIEGEL: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Port-au-Prince in Haiti. Thank you very much, Carrie. Take care.

KAHN: You're welcome, Robert.

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.

Related NPR Stories

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.