Reuters reports that the Haitian government ended search-and-rescue operations this morning. With international efforts now concentrating on helping hundreds of thousands of hungry, injured and homeless quake victims camped out in the streets, the Haitian government decided Friday to halt the hunt for survivors under rubble.”Hope is vanishing now, though we could still have miracles,” Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in Geneva.Byrs said search-and-rescue teams had saved 132 people since the Jan. 12 quake but the focus was now turning to medical assistance for survivors and finding bodies.
The Haitian authorities estimate up to 200,000 people may have died the quake, which left up to 3 million more either hurt or homeless and desperately clamoring for medical assistance, food and water. This aid has been slow reaching all the needy despite a huge international relief effort. Amid the grief, there were some indications the poor Caribbean country was coming back to life. Outside banks scheduled to reopen Saturday, Haitians waited impatiently to obtain cash needed to buy food and essential supplies. At one Unibank in the upscale Petionville district, cars stretched back two blocks waiting for a drive-in ATM to open. “I’m still waiting patiently. There is no cash, so there is nothing else to do,” said Myrtho Larco, a teacher. “There’s no work, there’s no jobs, God only knows what’s going to happen,” she said.
A large supermarket, Big Star Market, reopened in the Petionville suburb on Friday, selling everything from slabs of ham and goat meat to Valentine’s Day chocolates. But the store manager said only a week or two of stocks remained and it had received no deliveries.
On the same day the Haitian government declared search-and-rescue operations over, rescuers pulled two people barely alive from collapsed buildings in Port-au-Prince. An 84-year-old woman was rescued from under a wrecked building on Friday and evacuated by boat by the U.S. Army and, elsewhere in the shattered capital, an Israeli rescue team freed a 22-year-old man from the rubble. Up to 1.5 million Haitians lost their homes in the earthquake.
Relief agencies estimated one-third of Haiti’s 9 million people would need emergency food, water and shelter for an extended period. “We can do this 24 hours a day for the next six months and we still won’t meet the need,” said First Sergeant Rob Farnsworth, part of a U.S. Army airborne unit handing out food packs at a squalid camp where survivors lived in the open air. But Henriette Chamouillet, the World Health Organization representative in Haiti, said Friday aid distribution remained a problem. She said the Haitian prime minister complained at a meeting with aid workers that only 10 percent of the population in makeshift camps had received any food aid while some camps had received three times the amount of food they needed.