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Port-au-Prince's last 'miracle' survivors pulled from quake wreckage

Following the deadly Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated central Haiti, rescue workers continue to try to save what few survivors they can. Hundreds of thousands of dead or missing victims remain to be found.


AFP- The United Nations said Tuesday survivors can still be found in the debris of Haiti's devastating earthquake a week after the disaster, with international rescuers having pulled out over 90 people alive.

"Hope persists. There is still hope," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Byrs earlier told AFP that international search and rescue teams had extracted more than 90 survivors from beneath collapsed buildings since the disaster struck on January 12.

They include more than 70 people who had been freed from under collapsed buildings by the teams by Saturday, according to the UN. This means that about 20 people were rescued five or six days after the earthquake struck.

That number does not include those rescued by Haitians.


"Don't forget that the Haitians have also saved an enormous number of Haitians. The Haitians really participated," said Byrs.

US search and rescue teams rescued a record 10 people alive on Sunday, five days after the disaster, defying expectations that survival chances greatly diminish three days after an earthquake.

"According to rescue officials, this is the largest number of rescues in a single day in decades of earthquake search and rescue efforts," USAID said.

The UN spokeswoman explained that the way the buildings had collapsed had increased the chances for survival.

"The climate is mild, there are significant air pockets. The way in which the buildings collapsed has created big spaces," said Byrs.

"The problem is dehydration but for the moment there is still a chance," she added.

International rescue teams are now also expanding their search to affected areas outside of the Haitian capital.

"Our rescue and humanitarian efforts are now concentrated outside of Port-au-Prince," said Byrs.

Besides the capital, the earthquake has wreaked massive damage on nearby cities, including Jacmel to the south of the capital, and Carrefour, Gressier and Leogane, to the west.

At the peak of search and rescue operations, some 52 international teams with over 1,800 rescue workers and 175 dogs were combing through the debris.

Forty-eight teams are still working, said Byrs.

Meanwhile, others, such as members of the Belgian and Luxembourg rescue teams, have returned home, believing they have done all they could to help find survivors.

OCHA said the immediate priorities for relief agencies remained "medical assistance, corpse management, shelter, water and food and sanitation".

While food and tents are arriving in the country, relief agencies said access to fuel -- essential for the transport of relief items -- was becoming a key issue.

The World Food Programme is now planning to move 10,000 gallons (37,855 litres) of diesel fuel a day from neighbouring Dominican Republic to help relieve the situation, said OCHA in its latest situation report.

"Fuel has become a critical issue," said Emilia Casella, the UN food agency's spokeswoman.

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