Hymns, children's cries fill Haiti's night
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - In the frightening pitch black of quake-stricken Haiti's night, religious songs rise from groups of people huddled in open spaces for safety and solidarity.
The chanting and clapping, mainly by women, echo from hill to hill, street to street, as Haitians pray for their dead and ask God to spare them more suffering after an earthquake that has killed thousands and flattened much of the capital.
While the widespread singing provides comfort, the jarring shrieks and sobs of injured children -- some lying in the street clutching bloody gashes -- are a haunting reminder of the untended suffering in Haiti.
"Oh my God, who will help my country now?" said Manuel Deheusch, a Haitian businessman who came rushing back from neighboring Dominican Republic to check on his friends, family and properties.
"The world has to help us now. We cannot sort out this mess ourselves," he added, shaking his head and whispering the names of families whose houses he saw flattened as he drove round Port-au-Prince in the early evening.
Scores of dead bodies litter the streets, some untouched, others covered with a sheet or piece of clothing. Outside the Hotel Villa Creole, where journalists and aid workers gather to sleep the night, two bodies lie in the street right outside.
"This is a near impossible task," said a local volunteer, trying to bring succor to the dozens of injured and frightened Haitians lying and sleeping in the street outside the hotel, itself damaged by the quake.
U.N. PEACEKEEPERS IN SHOCK
There appears to be little major relief work under way yet.
Neighboring Dominican Republic has sent in some truckloads of aid and a few ambulances, which came screaming back out of Haiti with some injured people before night fell on Wednesday.
In the city, Haitians pick over rubble forlornly, seeking loved ones.
"The help has to come from outside now because the capability of the aid organizations inside has been smashed," said Mike Stewart, country director for the Hope for Haiti charity, which has set up a mini-hospital outside the Villa Creole. Its workers were mainly treating people for broken bones and internal bleeding.
"Ten who have come to us have died already," Stewart said. "There will be more dead by morning. We need to operate but we don't have the equipment. All the aid organizations have taken a huge hit, buildings smashed, people killed and so on."
U.N. peacekeepers -- 9,000 are stationed in Haiti -- dot the streets but look bemused, overwhelmed and worried about their own circumstances.
"I have not even been able to call my wife yet. She may think I'm dead," said one Chilean peacekeeper, who asked not to be named.
He and some blue-helmet colleagues from other Latin American nations sat on a line of vehicles -- including a tractor, earth-mover, and two cranes -- facing a road covered in rubble that they had been tasked with clearing.
"Where do we start? Just look at this," the soldier said. "And imagine what it's like in the areas we can't get to."
While trying to absorb the magnitude of what has happened, Port-au-Prince residents also are terrified of more aftershocks and looting. This reporter did not see a single policeman on the streets of the coastal capital.
Two aftershocks came and went on Wednesday, causing screams of terror to rise from the streets, and sending people running out of buildings.
While Haiti has seen plenty of violence in the past, this reporter saw a stoic and strangely calm atmosphere on the street and was several times politely requested to donate a bottle of water, which was quickly shared among many needy people.
(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, editing by Anthony Boadle and Bill Trott)
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