Sunday, January 24, 2010

Haiti: Man Rescued From Rubble After 11 days

Rescuers pulled a man alive from the rubble on Saturday 11 days after Haiti's devastating earthquake, raising hopes of finding more survivors even as the government called off search efforts.Skip related content

An international rescue team took the 23-year-old man away on a stretcher after frantically digging him out of the ruins of a hotel in Port-au-Prince, a rare tale of hope from the deadliest recorded disaster ever to hit the Americas.

He was saved just hours after the United Nations announced that Haiti's barely-functioning government had declared an end to search-and-rescue efforts so aid workers could focus on getting supplies to survivors.

"It's a real miracle. Let's hope it's not the last," said Lieutenant Colonel Christophe Renou, commander of the French contingent of the rescue team, which also included US and Greek aid workers.

"He was in a pocket in the debris in which he could move a bit and he was also able to find a little water that enabled him to survive."

French ambassador Didier le Bret, who was also at the scene, said: "Officially the rescue phase ended yesterday, but because our firemen are determined people they came when they were asked to."

Rescue teams have saved 132 people across the shattered city since the January 12 quake, according to the UN, most recently an 84-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man who were pulled from collapsed buildings on Friday.

A United Nations spokeswoman in Geneva said earlier Saturday that the Haitian government had called off the search and rescue phase at 4:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Friday.

But 62 teams remained in Haiti on Saturday, said Vincenzo Pugliese, a UN spokesman in Haiti, adding that while the government had switched focus to relief operations "this does not mean that search and rescue operations have stopped."

The miracle tale came as thousands of mourners gathered outside the ruins of the capital's cathedral for the funeral of the archbishop of Port-au-Prince, one of more than 110,000 people killed in the 7.0-magnitude quake.

President Rene Preval led a crowd who wept and sang songs at the funeral mass for popular Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot.

The 63-year-old's body was laid out in front of the city's destroyed Roman Catholic cathedral in an open casket wearing his ceremonial miter, with visible injuries to his face. He died when his office adjoining the cathedral collapsed.

"The Creator wants us to take part in the creation of a new country, a new Haiti, a new world," Joseph Lafontant, the auxiliary bishop who led the service.

Several thousand people also took part in group prayers on the Champ de Mars, near the wrecked presidential palace, led by energetic evangelists.

"All the bad spirits in the presidential palace must disappear!" shouted one preachers. Participants prayed, shouted and waved their hands toward the palace.

Aid workers increased the pace of deliveries to the more than 600,000 people living in squalid conditions beneath tents or in makeshift camps across the devastated capital, mostly with little food or water.

The UN World Food Program said it had distributed two million meals on Friday, up from 1.2 million on Thursday. A total of 150 health facilities were now running across the city, the World Health Organization said.

A US Marine unit had arrived off the coast of Haiti Saturday to bolster its aid contingent in the Caribbean nation, the US military said. A total of 20,000 US military personnel are due to be in Haiti or on ships offshore by Sunday.

Normal life was also returning to some parts of the capital, with some shops and street vendors back in business, traffic flowing in some parts of the city and people lining up to wait for private banks to reopen at last.

But elsewhere some pillaging continued in the main shopping street of Port-au-Prince.

A convoy of food aid being distributed by an unidentified NGO without an escort of UN peacekeepers was attacked and looted in the south of capital on Friday, the UN said.

Meanwhile a huge relocation of survivors out of the still-squalid capital continued.

More than 130,000 people have taken advantage of the government's offer of free transport to other cities where it is setting up new tent camps, the UN said. An unknown number of other people had left the capital by private means.

Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney meanwhile led a galaxy of stars Friday in a telethon fundraiser for quake victims broadcast across every major US television network.

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