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World News

January 15, 2010

Trapped Haitian girl dies despite rescue effort


A neighbor, Bellefleur Jean Heber, said Kettely Clerge had doted on little Haryssa, a bright and lively child whom she raised as though she were her own daughter. Each day, she walked the girl to school in their Petionville neighborhood, where Haryssa was known as a dedicated student.

As word spread Thursday that the child was still alive, more than a dozen people raced to help.

Inside the cramped basement, Haryssa was discovered trapped by a partially collapsed roof. Rescuers got close enough to pass her water but they could not get food to her before she died.

Heber said nobody expected help from authorities.

"Haiti is an abandoned country," he said. "People are relying on themselves."

Across Port-au-Prince, similar tragedies unfolded on Thursday. At the St. Gerard School, Cindy Terasme broke into sobs when she caught sight of her 14-year-old brother Jean Gaelle Dersmorne's feet protruding from the rubble. The child was dead.

So was another schoolgirl known only as Ruth, whose dust-covered legs dangled lifelessly from the collapsed wall she was trapped under.

An unknown number of people remain buried after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Tuesday, collapsing houses, office buildings and a children's hospital. Haitians used sledgehammers and their bare hands to search for survivors or bodies, piling the dead up at roadsides across the city.

The mayor of Port-au-Prince, Muscadin Jean Yves Jason, said one of his top priorities is to clear the bodies off the streets. But he said he has nowhere near the resources he needs to help the injured.

"We have nothing to do our job," said the mayor, who pleaded for sister cities in the U.S. including Miami, to send assistance. "We have no materials, no resources, nothing."

The city began preparing a mass grave for the dead on Thursday, with backhoes and other heavy equipment creating space inside a cemetery. Bodies waiting for burial were piled in heaps of as many as six people, many of them bloodied. One dead woman's hands were still stretched out as if exclaiming in grief.

A parade of pickup trucks, push carts and people carrying bodies on makeshift shelters added to the piles one by one.

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