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Devastation Expansive In Coastal Haiti Town

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Devastation Expansive In Coastal Haiti Town

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Devastation Expansive In Coastal Haiti Town

Devastation Expansive In Coastal Haiti Town

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One of the first rescue teams in Haiti to get close to the epicenter of last week's earthquake came from Iceland, and NPR's Jackie Northam traveled with them. She talks to host Guy Raz from the coastal Haiti town of Leogane about the devastation there, which is far more widespread than in Port au Prince.

GUY RAZ, host:

NPR's Jackie Northam joins me now from the town of Leogane. She's with one of the first rescue teams to reach close to the epicenter of where the earthquake struck last week.

And, Jackie, what are you seeing there?

JACKIE NORTHAM: I'm outside a school that has been absolutely flattened by the earthquake, and there are a lot of local people trying to pick through here, as well as the search and rescue team that I'm traveling with right now. There are very strong indications that there are still survivors under this school right now.

Leogane is about 40 miles outside of Port-au-Prince, Guy. It's along the coastline, and it's extremely close to the epicenter.

RAZ: And so, what are the differences between what you saw in Port-au-Prince and what you're seeing now in Leogane?

NORTHAM: Well, essentially, when the reconnaissance teams came out here, they said that 80 percent of this city of 40,000 people is destroyed; 80 percent of this city is destroyed.

You know, in Port-au-Prince, you get large pockets of the city that are completely smashed, the buildings have collapsed in that. But once you start leaving Port-au-Prince and you start heading towards Leogane, you get whole stretches of road where buildings have completely been flattened, and that carries out all into the city. Certainly, this place has just been really hit by this earthquake very badly.

RAZ: Can you describe what the journey was like from Port-au-Prince to Leogane?

NORTHAM: Actually, the road was much better than they thought it was. The big problem here, though, is time. Everything takes time here. You know, there's so many people wandering the streets right now. There's so many aid agencies, people trying to get help to the Haitians. Now, the streets are really very clogged right now.

The other problem, though, Guy is, is that there are many, many search and rescue teams from all over the world finally getting in here. The problem is there isn't really one point of contact for organization. I spoke with many of the teams this morning and they all express frustration about this. They didn't know who was in charge, who was trying to organize security versus who's got the equipment, that type of thing.

So they're coming in, all these search teams, but it doesn't mean they're actually getting out there any faster. And as we all know, time is absolutely of the essence right now.

RAZ: Mm-hmm. Jackie, describe what the security situation is like in that area. Are there any signs of violence or maybe impending violence in the area?

NORTHAM: When they gave us the rundown this morning - and they had just come back from an assessment of this place. They came in by chopper. In fact, they said that the locals here, they were not aggressive whatsoever. We were seeing very clear signs of this in Port-au-Prince yesterday.

And the other thing that's very interesting here is the local people are taking it upon themselves to try to find people perhaps still under these buildings. This is particularly dangerous. If you look at these buildings, they're hanging, you know, at 90-degree angles in some cases, just ready to go with the next tremor.

So it's better here as far as security, but there's still a lot of problems here. This place has been really hit badly.

RAZ: That's NPR's Jackie Northam, who is close to the epicenter of where that earthquake struck in Haiti last week. She's in the town of Leogane.

Jackie, thanks so much and please stay safe.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Guy.

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