Port-au-Prince- A heavy stench of rotting bodies was in the air on the streets of Haiti's capital Port-a-Prince. Evan, whose brother was buried underneath the rubble of the city's university building since Wednesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, has been waiting for the past three days for rescue forces to dig out his brother's body.
"I knew he was here right after the earthquake," Evan said with a desperate gaze. "I yelled and he answered with a weak whimper. I managed to talk to him a bit and saw him trapped underneath the rubble. A heavy concrete wall crushed his shoulder and he wasn't able to move. I told him I was going to get a rope and rescue him – but when I came back he was already dead," said Evan.
The IDF's Home Front Command rescue unit was not able to help Evan retrieve the body. "Our equipment has not arrived yet, and we are a small team. We can't extricate your brother at the moment," team leader Captain Nir Hazut told Evan. "We will try to come back tomorrow morning and get him out," he promised.
Foreign aid teams ceded command (Photo: Dano Monkotavitz)
"You must understand," said Daniel Keidar, a Haitian resident that joined the Israeli delegation, "they live like stray dogs, but want to die like kings. They give a lot of respect to their dead. I understand that there is a priority for rescuing trapped survivors, but it is also important to retrieve the bodies," he said.
A lot of respect to their dead. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office)
500 patients per day
The IDF teams spent all night unpacking medical equipment that arrived in Port-au-Prince Friday afternoon on board a commercial El Al Jumbo plane, along with 200 delegation members.
One team rushed over to the collapsed UN building where authorities estimate some 80 people are buried. Rescue teams from China and Brazil were already at the scene, but ceded command to the experienced Israeli delegation.
Looking for survivors in the rubble (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office)
"It was a heart-breaking sight," said Colonel (Ret.) Gili Shenhar of Home Front Command, who is also a UN representative. "A tearful Polish woman sat next to me and begged that we help find her husband who was buried underneath the building," Shenhar said.
The next day, the team managed to locate a 58-year-old man named Jill, who was trapped underneath a collapsed structure, and began efforts to extricate him while talking to him on his mobile phone.
"Yesterday we visited the Red Cross hospital," said delegation commander Brigadier General Shalom Ben Aryeh. "There are many severely injured patients that the Red Cross would gladly transfer to our field-hospital. I believe that by evening time we will be at full capacity; we have 40 hospital beds, and we can expand the capacity if necessary."
The field hospital will be able to treat some 500 patients a day, said Ben Aryeh, adding that "although the delegation's main purpose is to treat injuries, we will also continue with rescue efforts in the UN building, in schools and other locations where we believe survivors are trapped."