Ian Rodgers, Save the Children emergency response adviser
January 13, 2010
Morning today in Haiti was very eerie.
Last night, only a few hours after the quake, a couple of our staff and I tried to get some sleep out in the garden of the office, but the frequent, violent aftershocks and the sounds of people crying, wailing in the distance made sleep impossible.
We had to sleep outside because our office compound was damaged in the quake. The wall around the compound was destroyed and the pipes inside burst, so we can’t go back in yet because we are afraid of being electrocuted.
But we are fortunate. Our office is a solid multi-story structure and fortunately, it survived the quake much better than many others buildings in the neighborhood.
Last night and throughout the day today, we’ve provided shelter to injured neighbors, children, diplomats and other NGO staff who have come to our compound for help. And today we were able to assist 3 people to be evacuated: an American, a Frenchman and a Spaniard.
This morning, as daylight broke, rescue efforts resumed. Because roads have been destroyed, we headed out by foot to walk around the neighborhood and survey damage as well as talk to children and families. There is so much debris and rubble in the streets that we can’t get our vehicles through to do a proper assessment. So we instead headed out by foot to try to get a sense of what’s happened.
When we spoke to children and families, it was clear that people are very much in shock. We saw a lot of people still crying. There were so many distressed people – some of them were wailing, trying to find loved ones under debris and rubble. I’ve worked in a lot of disaster areas all over the world – and it was incredibly eerie to see so many people in shock.
This afternoon another guy on staff and I headed out by motorbikes to look for food and water, and try to do a more extensive assessment. We have only 11 drums of water left in the office and limited food.
We made it down the mountainside to the plateau – and everywhere we went, we saw massive destruction and people trying to dig through the rubble. We also saw small groups of people gathering at petrol stations or any place still standing. Of course this is not safe – they are standing on top of petrol tanks that may have been damaged and there is no organization, no relief efforts underway yet.
I’m really worried, it is expected to rain tonight and all the dust will turn into mud, making everything even worse. In addition to making the search and rescue more difficult, it will also increase the risk for mudslides, especially during the aftershocks.
It’s late now and it’s been a long day. I am relieved that we have more emergency responders arriving from Save the Children tomorrow. Hopefully they will bring water purification tablets and food. We will be working to get our initial response – hygiene and shelter kits – up and going and hope that by tomorrow we will be able to make the first distributions.