Bill Greene/Globe Staff
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Using sticks, crowbars and their own two hands, Haitians in search of loved ones raced against time today to dig out collapsed buildings here in the stricken capital.
In scenes repeated in neighborhoods across Port-au-Prince, Haitians were forced to fend for themselves two days after a powerful 7.0 earthquake devastated the capital and nearby towns and villages, and as the United States and other nations prepared to mount a massive relief operation.
Bodies lay in the streets. Dazed survivors huddled together, fearful of going indoors because of concerns that aftershocks would topple already shaky buildings.
On Delmas Street, men clawed at the twisted rubble of the Good Samaritan School. They were searching for daughters, sisters, and cousins who went to class Tuesday at the all-girls section of the school and never returned. Their faces covered in bandanas to smother the stench, they grabbed at the debris with their bare hands, the urgency growing with each passing moment.
On Wednesday night, they heard voices and dropped food through the cracks in the heap. Today, they heard nothing.
"I know she came to school and she didn't come home,'' said Franz
Thelusma, a police officer who flashed his badge and a photograph of
his daughter, Charline, a budding teacher. "She watched over me. I'm
not giving up until I find her."
On the streets of the capital, many survivors and those wounded in the quake wandered aimlessly, balancing belongings atop their heads, unsure of where to turn for help. Most said they hadn't eaten for several days.
Some Haitians interviewed expressed fears that criminals would prey on them, after Port-au-Prince's main prison collapsed, freeing scores of inmates.
Aid workers trickled into Toussaint Louverture International Airport in the searing heat, the vanguard of the international relief effort that is taking shape. On the tarmac, aid workers from Brazil, the United States, France, Belgium, and the United Nations hurriedly unloaded supplies from cargo planes. Outside, scores awaited for a chance to leave the devastated country.
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