Haitian government declares end of search-and-rescue phase

UN stresses relief efforts being ramped up; 10 days after quake, Israeli team pulls 22-year-old from rubble; 111,481 people confirmed dead.

January 23, 2010 13:58
3 minute read.
Daniel Kedar squeezes at the IDF hospital the hand

haiti idf hospital 311. (photo credit: E.B. Solomont)

Several hours after two people were rescued by international rescue teams in Haiti, the Haitian government declared the search-and-rescue phase over for the survivors of the massive quake, the United Nations said Saturday, stressing that the humanitarian and relief efforts were still being ramped up.

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International search teams have rescued 132 people since the 7.0-magnitude quake rocked Haiti on January 12, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated.

According to the UN, Haiti's government confirmed 111,481 deaths and has also accounted for some 609,000 people without shelter in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

Spokeswoman Elizebeth Byrs told The Associated Press that rescue teams still searching through the rubble would not be prevented from carrying out whatever work they felt necessary. "It doesn't mean the government will order them to stop. In case there is the slightest sign of life, they will act."

But she added: "Except for miracles, hope is unfortunately fading."

Ten days after a massive earthquake devastated the Caribbean country, an Israeli search and rescue team saved a 22-year-old Haitian man from the rubble of a collapsed building in Port-au-Prince, according to a statement from the IDF Spokesperson.

The man, Emmannuel Buso, was in stable condition, and was being treated at the IDF field hospital.

Buso said from his bed in the IDF field hospital near Haiti's main airport that he survived by drinking his own urine and spent most of his time under the debris in a listless daze, at times dreaming of his mother and thinking that he had in fact died.

"I am here today because God wants it," Buso said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Local residents alerted the Israeli team to the trapped man's location.

One member of the rescue team, IDF Maj. Zohar Moshe, was quoted in the statement as saying that "American and French doctors were unable to rescue the trapped man and called upon the Israeli delegation's search and rescue teams who rescued the man within half an hour, from a tunnel, 2.5-3-meters long and were able to release him whole and healthy."

Buso, a slender student and tailor with deep-set eyes, said he had just come out of the shower when the quake hit. "I felt the house dancing around me," he said from his bed, covered by a reflective heat blanket in the hospital field tent. "I didn't know if I was up or down."

He passed out and lay in a daze, dreaming at times that he could hear his mother crying. The furniture in his room had collapsed around him in such a way that it created a small space for him amid the ruins of the house. He had no food. When he got desperately thirsty, he drank his urine.

"I was very scared," he said. "My heart was jumping."

Elsewhere Friday, an 84-year-old woman was said by relatives to have been pulled from the wreckage of her home, according to doctors administering oxygen and intravenous fluids to her at the General Hospital. Doctors said she was in critical condition.

Earlier Friday, doctors said a 69-year-old woman was pulled from the wreckage of a building, but some teams were giving up the search and efforts focused on expanding aid for survivors.

On Thursday, Brig.-Gen. Shalom Ben-Aryeh, commander of the Israeli field hospital in Port-au-Prince, said that the IDF delegation would return home only after it was confident that the wounded were receiving proper treatment.

"As long as we don't have someone authoritative to take our wounded we won't leave," Ben-Aryeh said.

The IDF hospital, he said, has treated more than 450 patients, delivered seven babies and performed dozens of surgeries.

On Monday, Haiti announced that it had buried 70,000 bodies in mass graves as search and rescue personnel were continuing their efforts to find more survivors or dead trapped under the debris.

On Sunday, once the American hospital starts functioning, Ben-Aryeh said that he planned to hold consultations with the IDF brass about returning to Israel. There is a possibility that replacements for current members of the delegation will be sent to Haiti if the IDF decides to remain on the island.

"The decision will be made on Sunday," he said. "If we decide to stay longer we will replace some of the teams."

About 400 wounded and sick have been treated at the field hospital, which is located in a soccer field in the center of town, with about 140 operations carried out by the Israelis.

An IsraAid medical team consisting of 15 professionals, among them post-trauma experts, is set to leave for Haiti on Friday night.

Upon landing in Port-au-Prince, the team will assist the country in efforts to recover from the massive earthquake which struck it over a week ago. The medical personnel will also visit other areas which were affected by the earthquake.

Judy Siegel, AP and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report

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