Rescue crews came face to face with the stench of death Thursday in Haiti’s quake-battered capital as they began the arduous task of pulling survivors from rubble, providing food and water to the homeless and treating thousands left injured.
“The vast majority of downtown Port-au-Prince is a mess of dead bodies, rebar and concrete,” said Eric Marrapodi, part of a team of CNN journalists in Haiti.
Aid workers trickled into Haiti two days after a 7.0-magnitude quake walloped the teeming, hillside city of Port-au-Prince in an urgent relief effort rivaling the worldwide response to the 2004 tsunami.
What the aid workers and journalists landing in Haiti saw — and smelled — was shocking.
The stench of dead bodies wafted in the air, and throughout the sprawling capital people covered their faces to block the foul odor.
Outside a funeral home, a line stretched for half a block with people trying to get in to bury their dead. Piles of bodies were lined up on the sides of roads. On one body, the name was written on a foot in permanent marker to identify the person.
Roads leading from the dock into town were buckled about 5 feet high, and large cargo ships can’t dock at the city’s damaged port. The rubble-strewn roads, downed trees and the battered communications network hampered humanitarian groups trying to get supplies to victims, and thousands of homeless people lived on the streets.
The Haitian government has halted flights into the Port-au-Prince airport for now because ramp space is too crowded, and there is no fuel, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said Thursday.
The FAA’s Laura Brown said no flights from the United States will be taking off until clearance is given.
Rescue efforts have become top priority across the globe.
President Obama on Thursday announced $100 million in aid, saying, “This is one of those moments that calls for American leadership.”