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Jan-25-2010 20:52printcommentsVideo

Dealing With Haiti's Dead

Currently, cemeteries remain overflowing and there are still random bodies reported to be piled up in various parts of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti during the removal of the dead
Photo and video courtesy: UN/MINUSTAH

(PORT-AU-PRINCE/SALEM) - Thirteen days following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti, tens of thousands of bodies remain buried beneath the rubble and in mass graves around the capital Port-au-Prince.

As each day passes, the dead keep coming. Precious few of the quake victims are receiving proper burials. Other uncollected bodies have been burned in the streets.

It is impossible to know how many victims are buried in mass graves.

Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lessgue is Haiti's Minister of Communication: "In the first 24 hours, it was difficult. The dead were piled up in the streets everywhere. By the third day, we began asking the population to assemble the bodies in front of the cemeteries, or the churches and the Cathedral. In this way, we could count the dead. And we could pick them up and bury them, notably in the cemeteries. That's where we get the number for 150,000 dead."

Shallow graves may allow family to eventually go back and try to retrieve their loved ones, but by now they are unrecognizable.

Red Cross officials are encouraging authorities to fill out forms that include taking photographs of jewelry and marks on the body that may identify the person.

Lessgue is confident that Haitian authorities will eventually arrive at a final count when total figures from mayors’ offices, the public works department and families are added up.

Lessgue said, "In this type of situation there is always a margin of error. But we think we will arrive at a final count. We still need to reconcile the numbers we've gotten from the mayors' offices, from the public works department, and then the families.”

This Haitian grave digger working at a cemetery in Port-au-Prince said that most graves can only hold up to three bodies.

Currently, cemeteries remain overflowing and there are still random bodies reported to be piled up in various parts of Port-au-Prince.

Special thanks to the UN/MINUSTAH video crews on the ground in Port-au-Prince.



Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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