Image: Girl cries after seeing dead brother
Gerald Herbert  /  AP
Cindy Terasme cries after seeing the feet of her dead 14-year-old brother, Jean Gaelle Dersmorne, in the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School on Thursday.
updated 1/14/2010 9:17:26 PM ET 2010-01-15T02:17:26

Trapped beneath the crumbled remains of her home, the cries of the 9-year-old girl could be heard begging for rescue as neighbors clawed at sand and debris with their bare hands.

It had been two days since the earthquake collapsed the cinderblock home, trapping Haryssa Keem Clerge inside the basement. Friends and neighbors braved aftershocks to climb over the rubble, one of hundreds of toppled structures teetering on the side of a ravine.

In a city full of people desperately waiting for more help than neighbors can muster, it never came for Haryssa.

Just hours after her screams renewed rescuers' hopes Thursday, the child's lifeless body was finally pulled from the mass of concrete and twisted metal. Wrapped in a green bath towel, it was placed inside a loose desk drawer. With nowhere to take it, the body was then left on the hood of a battered Isuzu Trooper.

'No anybody'
"There are no police, no anybody," said the child's despairing godmother, Kettely Clerge. Neighbors had to hold her back as she walked toward the building's winding, partially collapsed stairway, wailing: "I want to see her!"

A day earlier, the little girl's mother, Lauranie Jean, was pulled from the rubble of the same house. She lay moaning inside a tent Thursday as volunteers rubbed ointment into open wounds on her sides.

The family has now taken refuge in a dirt playground — one of hundreds of open spaces across Port-au-Prince that people are filling each night to try to avoid the risk of aftershocks.

Haitians living in the capital's growing tent cities say they do not expect help anytime soon.

"People are waiting for someone to take care of them," said Michel Reau, 27, who brought his wife and infant child to the park after their home collapsed. "We are out of food. We are out of water."

A neighbor, Bellefleur Jean Heber, said Kettely Clerge had doted on little Haryssa, a bright and lively child whom she raised as though she were her own daughter. Each day, she walked the girl to school in their Petionville neighborhood, where Haryssa was known as a dedicated student.

Video: Sights and sounds from Haiti As word spread Thursday that the child was still alive, more than a dozen people raced to help.

Inside the cramped basement, Haryssa was discovered trapped by a partially collapsed roof. Rescuers got close enough to pass her water but they could not get food to her before she died.

Heber said nobody expected help from authorities.

"Haiti is an abandoned country," he said. "People are relying on themselves."

Feet protruding from rubble
Across Port-au-Prince, similar tragedies unfolded on Thursday. At the St. Gerard School, Cindy Terasme broke into sobs when she caught sight of her 14-year-old brother Jean Gaelle Dersmorne's feet protruding from the rubble. The child was dead.

So was another schoolgirl known only as Ruth, whose dust-covered legs dangled lifelessly from the collapsed wall she was trapped under.

An unknown number of people remain buried after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Tuesday, collapsing houses, office buildings and a children's hospital. Haitians used sledgehammers and their bare hands to search for survivors or bodies, piling the dead up at roadsides across the city.

The mayor of Port-au-Prince, Muscadin Jean Yves Jason, said one of his top priorities is to clear the bodies off the streets. But he said he has nowhere near the resources he needs to help the injured.

"We have nothing to do our job," said the mayor, who pleaded for sister cities in the U.S. including Miami, to send assistance. "We have no materials, no resources, nothing."

The city began preparing a mass grave for the dead on Thursday, with backhoes and other heavy equipment creating space inside a cemetery. Bodies waiting for burial were piled in heaps of as many as six people, many of them bloodied. One dead woman's hands were still stretched out as if exclaiming in grief.

A parade of pickup trucks, push carts and people carrying bodies on makeshift shelters added to the piles one by one.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: 'There are too many dead bodies'

  1. Closed captioning of: 'There are too many dead bodies'

    >> tonight. "nightly news" begins now.

    >>> good evening from port-au-prince, haiti , where we are relying on a satellite telephone for our audio communications tonight. we are in a desolate, wooded area, sporadic housing, no power. just off the main landing strip here. this is still such a desperate country tonight with really no visible government here in charge. the united states has really taken de facto control of the air strip . here is what is happening as we go on the air tonight. the international red cross made news today, grim news with their latest estimates that the death toll before it's over will number between 45,000 and 50,000. the urgent needs right now, food, water and fuel. as everyone here has said, as the president himself said today, aid to haiti is a top priority for everyone in the free world . again, another desperate day here in haiti , a race against time that continues around the clock. this city has been crushed. from the air it looks like the life has gone out of it, and from the ground, it almost has. the bodies are everywhere, frozen under the concrete. some painful last moments, terrified people grasping each other for comfort. there are so many of the dead, the morgue is full. today, haiti 's president estimated he has buried 7,000 citizens so far in a common grave.

    >> we need some help to carry them dead bodies and try to bury them.

    >> dazed and numb, the living seem almost oblivious, except for the smell of death. make-shift masks can't block out the smell. the rescue effort is still desperate. bare hands, in some cases a human chain of muscle, and the odd backhoe. that is a much needed help today. within hours of walking off the plane, the fairfax county , virginia, search and rescue team found a u.n. worker.

    >> no matter who it is, if it's one or a hundred, we are going to try to save one person at a time.

    >> time is running out quickly. this primary school was flattened with close to 700 children inside. and today there was no sign of life. staying alive is the only priority. people are scavenging the rubble for food and water. as one aid worker put it today, money is worth nothing right now. water is the currency.

    >> we need some water, some food, everything.

    >> people are carrying what remains of their life on their heads. shelter is any open space . and if you're lucky, a piece of plastic.

    >> start doing something so people can have courage.

    >> aid is starting to arrive from all over the world. so much of it at once for a time today the airport had to temporarily hold incoming flights. it took six hours to unload one aircraft from china because of an equipment shortage. getting relief supplies distributed is another challenge. there wasn't enough fuel to get to the hardest-hit areas. this is a typical scene along one of the many boulevards in port-au-prince. a lot of people, again, are carrying all that they can because their homes have been destroyed. and as we were driving by this spot, we noticed something absolutely awful. someone has dropped off a body on a make-shift plywood gurney covered in a blanket. people are simply walking by. there are too many dead bodies in laithy for any one of them to attract too much attention.

    >> i need help.

    >> with grim scenes like that everywhere here in port-au-prince, it's hard to believe some people can still muster a smile, let alone a little boy who lost his home. ask what happened to his home.

    >> his house got a problem, and he lost his family,


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments