Monday, 10 November 2008

More Trauma for Haiti as School Death Toll Rises to 88

Couple of previous posts with Haiti-focus here, it's an important place for them (click link; Trance-formation goes into it), this is probably just another group child-sacrifice; it probably wasn't intentionally brought down [insane Preachers are always suspect though; "God demands sacrifice" or some crazy shit he could have been thinking; programmed to think, as Haiti is steeped in MK] but it's certainly symbolic of how fucked up they've made this country that their buildings are so poorly constructed that something like this could actually happen... I blame Masonry ;p. Link to below pasted story.

Haitian police are holding the owner of a school that collapsed, killing at least 88 people and setting off a desperate search for survivors trapped in tons of rubble.

Fortin Augustin, the preacher who owns and built College La Promesse in suburban Port-au-Prince, was arrested late last night and charged with involuntary manslaughter, police spokesman Garry Desrosier said.

Augustin was being held at a police station in Haiti's capital, while a U.S. rescue crew searched overnight for survivors of Friday's collapse of the three-story building, which normally holds 500 students and teachers.

A male student, still alive, trapped under the debris at the scene of the church school that collapsed on the outskirts of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince

In a rare moment of joy in a grim task, Haitian rescuers pulled four children alive from the rubble and cradled them in their arms on Saturday as they ran toward ambulances, U.N. police spokesman Andre Leclerc said.

Mr Leclerc said he did not know the extent of the injuries to the two girls, aged three and five, and two boys, a seven-year-old and a teenager. But he added the three-year-old had a cut on her head and seemed to be all right.

'She was talking and drinking juice,' Mr Leclerc said.

Nadia Lochard, civil protection coordinator for the western region that includes Petionville, said the death toll rose to 84 on Saturday, with 150 others injured and many more still missing.

Later, U.S. rescuers using digital cameras on long poles to look under the rubble found six or seven bodies, but think that two of them were already included in Ms Lochard's death toll, said Evan Lewis, a member of a team from Fairfax County, Virginia.

Rescue workers survey the scene of the rubble

In the two days of rescues, parents clutched pictures of their children as they watched rescue workers sidestep human limbs sticking out from the rubble.

Riot police chased away several Haitians who found their way past police barriers and were trying to excavate the site themselves.

Around 500 students usually crowded into the hillside school, which had been holding a party on the day of the collapse, exempting students from wearing uniforms and complicating efforts to identify their bodies, Ms Lochard said.

Thousands of Haitians cheered and shouted directions as trucks carried oxygen and medical supplies down the mountain road on Saturday.

By nightfall, hundreds stood in the shadows across a ravine behind the collapsed school watching rescuers pick through the rubble amid floodlights.

Chaos: A girl is pulled to safety from the wreckage of the collapsed school in Petionville, Haiti

Angelique Toussaint kept vigil on a rooftop overlooking the rubble Saturday and prayed that her 13-year-old granddaughter, Velouna, would be saved.

Her three other grandchildren were found alive on Friday, and one granddaughter underwent an operation for a severely broken leg.

Dressed in her white church clothes, the 55-year-old Roman Catholic said she had attended a group prayer for missing children.

Velouna's parents had gone home, exhausted from the oppressive heat and endless waiting as rescuers struggled to work around a hanging concrete slab that could not be safely removed.

'I think they're doing a good job. It's a little slow, but I'm relieved all these people are helping,' Ms Toussaint said.

Rescue effort: Hundreds of people join emergency services to comb the rubble for survivors

Local authorities used their bare hands to pull bleeding students from the wreckage before heavy equipment and international teams arrived late on Friday and Saturday to help, including some 38 search-and-rescue officials and four rescue dogs from Virginia.

Earlier, as the death toll continued to rise and hopes for the victims faded, rescuers unearthed a schoolroom filled with 17 bodies, many of them children.

News of the grim discovery was relayed to President Rene Preval, who was visiting the scene at the time.

Mr Preval said: 'It really breaks your heart to see those children under the debris without being able to help them.

'As a father it is devastating to see such a disaster.'

A wounded boy is rescued from the wreckage

He revealed that volunteers working under floodlights had dropped water and biscuits through gaps in the rubble to one group of trapped survivors.

'Last night we were sure there were still seven children alive,' he said.

'We got one of them but we have lost all signs of the other six being alive.'

One fireman tearfully described how a child, trapped under debris crushing his legs, begged rescuers to cut his feet off.

France has added to the rescue effort by sending a team of 15 firefighters and doctors from the island of Martinique.

Neighbours told French rescuers they had heard children's voices under the rubble on Friday night and tried to pass them some biscuits.

Volunteers signal to a body found in the rubble after the school collapsed

But at that moment, the teetering ruins shifted and crashed down, silencing their cries, said Daniel Vigee, head of the Martinique-based French rescue team.

As they prepared to work through the night on Saturday, U.S. rescuers only heard silence, said Captain Michael Istvan, operations chief for the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue team.

Haiti, the poorest and most politically tumultuous country in the Western Hemisphere, has struggled this year to recover from riots over rising food prices and a string of hurricanes and tropical storms that killed nearly 800 people.

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