Heartache in Haiti: Understanding the scope of the tragedy

By Sonny Dixon - bio | email

PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI (WTOC) - The scene in Haiti is still very much a disaster area. One week has past since I joined pastor Larry McDaniel of the Sanctuary and vice president Brinson Clements of Medical Infusion Technologies on a trip to Port Au Prince, Haiti.

We thought the reports had prepared us, but it was worse, far worse than any of us imagined.

Hearts broken, heads bowed, hope is hard to find or even fathom.

"Seven that they pulled out dead in here," said pastor McDaniel. "There's more back under there. They know there's one right here there trying to get at now."

All over Port-Au-Prince, it was just like that. The main cathedral was destroyed and the bishop was inside and was killed during the earthquake.

"If they had a thousand trucks a day carrying rubble out of here it will take three years just to move all the rubble out," said pastor McDaniel.

And Port-Au-Prince native pastor Joel Vibert says there're may be a couple hundred trucks, just trucks.

"No one to give them equipment so they're trying to do what they can and literally bring it out one rock at a time, throwing it on dump trucks," said Clements.

Precious few excavators and loaders made for scenes so common it seemed to inspire a sad spontaneous theme.

One rock at a time just breaks my heart.

"He said we made application with the government for heavy equipment to move all this rubble, but he said it can take a long time," said pastor McDaniel. "So he said we decided we're going to do whatever we can do and to move it one rock at a time."

Pastor Larry McDaniel lived there seven years. He speaks the language fluently and loves the people. But this homecoming was disheartening. "I raised my three children right here, in that very house," he pointed out to me. "It was yellow, bright yellow, when I lived there."

Now the house, the whole place, was pretty much a refugee camp.

"It's really sad to see something that once was really lovely, I mean, just home for me, to see it let go like this," pastor McDaniel said.

But he says they have no where else to go.

The devastation, a lousy government, gripping poverty even before the quake and a form of construction that would prove to be the worst possible is making the situation even harder to recover from.

"Concrete floors and roofs, they will put boards up there held up by little sticks, actually probably not more than two or three inches in diameter. There'll be thousands of those sticks in here holding the form boards up," pastor McDaniel said.

All the buildings were contructed with thin weak concrete and minimal reinforcement.

"And that's one reason so many of the buildings fell here," McDaniel pointed out.

Can anyone really know the scope of this tragedy?

"Absolutely not, there is no way that anyone can have a grasp on the number of people have been killed here," Clements said. "They are guessing. But when you see all these buildings that are just huge piles of rubble, there's absolutely no way to know how many. It will be in the hundreds of thousands."

That leaves millions more to see the sun rise and set before they ever get back to what they once had, which was precious and very little.

Still they sleep under the same moon we see, but on mats in the street. They feed their children and pray.

It is agonizing to think of what we saw and sensed. The smell of death. The desperate lack of help clearing the rubble.

The food, water and tents sent are vitality important for so many. It's all they have, but at the rate they are going, it will be decades before it is all cleaned up.

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