Aftershocks ‘like mad’ like working on board a boatPublished 10:33am Monday, January 25, 2010
Editor’s note: Cathy is a nutritional health care worker Dr. James Wierman of Dowagiac knows who has worked in Leogane on and off for the past 10 years.
She provides this eyewitness account of the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which devastated Haiti Jan. 12.
Aftershocks like mad (Jan. 21).
Every 15-30 minutes for the past couple of hours.
At this point it almost feels like you’re working on a boat.
This morning went rounding up patients in the areas outside the city.
Another random group of docs arrived (from Knoxville, actually) and I got them set up out in Darbonne for the day.
Tomorrow they’re headed toward the mountains.
Late last night we did a distribution of food and tents to a few of the refugee camps.
We decided night distributions were best because there tends to be less chaos – no one can see us coming.
Short e-mail today because I don’t want to be inside when the next aftershock hits.
Some are doozies.
Jan. 19, 2010 @ 7:06 p.m.
Flew out of Ft. Lauderdale on a private jet around 7:30.
Only had to circle around the airport for a few minutes and landed (in Port-au-Prince) around 9:20. The airport is crazy. It’s like flying onto a very active military base. Enormous military jets everywhere, Blackhawks and various helicopters taking off and landing every minute or two, and tents everywhere.
We packed our bags onto Save (the Children) trucks and made it to Leogane pretty quick.
The roads are fine. PAP is bad, but most of the bodies have been removed.
Places where houses completely collapsed and bodies are crushed underneath the smell is pretty horrid.
Leogane is unreal. It’s completely flattened.
Maybe 10 houses in the entire city are standing without damage.
The main streets are so damaged that you can’t get around with a car.
All electric lines are down, and most of the city smells pretty bad from the bodies decaying under the piles of rubble.
The entire town is homeless and is gathered under makeshift tents in just about any open space.
There are several thousand people sleeping on the ground outside the nursing school.
Today I just wandered around reconnecting with people.
Met up with John and Suzi (Parker, hospital guest house coordinators), went out to Darbonne, set up our tents, got the docs set up.
Probs coordinating with Medecins Sans Frontier … So there’s a meeting tonight between our docs and theirs to try and work out logistics.
Now it’s dark and pitch black outside.
The Filariasis guest house has a generator, so there’s some light, but we’re going to eat our peanut butter and crackers and crash.
Tomorrow will be busy – there are insane amounts of supplies being dropped in that need to be sorted and the docs need to be organized.
Jan. 20 @ 6:57 a.m.
Our wake-up call this morning was a pretty decent sized aftershock at 6 a.m.
Having been indoctrinated from infancy to react to earthquakes, it didn’t actually faze me much and within a second I was out of my tent (why, I don’t know, since we’re in the middle of a field, but maybe I was unconsciously looking for a doorway?).
The whole town started wailing, though. Tensions are so high. The aftershock was 6.1, and sounds like it was located about 36 miles from PAP.
Jan. 20 @ 3:53 p.m.
I walked through town today and counted: Japanese crew; Swiss Doctors Without Borders (MSF); Swede MSF; Canadian MSF; our crew; another group from Massachusetts; HSC docs (local doctors from Leogane) and another mystery group on their way.
I sent the Massachusetts group to Grand Goave. Some of the MSF people went to Grand Goave as well (it was the epicenter for the big aftershock we got this morning).
The Japanese are incredible – they have their own operating room including an x-ray machine and brought their own ice cream makers. We’re all jealous.
The (air strip) “runway” (the alternate (paved) route through Leogane) is also pretty hectic.
This morning Jean Marc and I played air traffic control when two helicopters and a plane all wanted to land at the same time.
Shipments are flying in about every 30 minutes – unfortunately, there’s not much coordination about where the stuff is supposed to go.
Obviously, we know about the stuff destined for the nursing school, but random stuff is being dropped (including medical personnel) and we can’t figure out what to do with it. It’s totally chaotic.
The UN is trying to distribute tents and tarps, but they haven’t quite mastered distribution yet.
Within seconds they’re overpowered and chaos ensues.
Jn. Marc and Nathan are off to rescue the latest UN distributors as I type.
Lots of pretty incredible medical sights.
One young girl was essentially scalped. Somehow our docs managed to stretch her skin over her scalp again and stitch her up even though seven days have passed.
Lots of pretty severe broken bones and crush injuries.
Other than helping with air traffic, part of my job today has been to organize all the shipments of meds and finding supplies for the docs.
Save the Children also showed up today so I got to see Kathryn for a few minutes.
Houses with the most severe stench of decaying bodies are starting to be bulldozed, so hopefully the stench will subside within a week. It’s pretty overwhelming in some areas.
Still trying to track people down. Since everyone’s house was destroyed, everyone is sleeping in various fields and it’s hard to find them.
One of our monitrices was killed but it’s impossible to hear about anyone outside of the immediate Leogane city.
We have no idea how everyone in the mountains fared.
A doctor on the team with Cathy reported:
Ninety percent of the buildings have just been flattened. There are the ‘tent cities’ of the refugees.
He said some of them have sheets for shelter, and some have used metal to make shelters.
He could hear the Haitians singing hymns.
They have a general surgeon, and an orpheopedic surgeon came in on a helicopter this afternoon.
Thanks to Nathan and Cathy, the team has plenty of clean water. Ten large buckets of Gadyen Dlo (water purification system). So all is well tonight.
Hopefully, they will all get a good night’s sleep and be ready for a long day of work tomorrow.