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Survivors of deadly Haiti earthquake overwhelm its hospitals

Storm hampers earthquake rescue efforts in Haiti
Storm hampers earthquake rescue efforts in Haiti 02:11

Port-au-Prince, Haiti — The tiny island nation of Haiti was still struggling to recover on Tuesday from a deadly earthquake that struck over the weekend. A tropical storm that struck on Monday did nothing to help those efforts as the death toll from the quake climbed over 1,941, with more than 9,900 injured, Haitian officials said Tuesday.

As Haiti struggles also with political turmoil, the natural disasters combined with a serious coronavirus outbreak to bring the country's health infrastructure to its knees. As CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers reports, hospitals in some regions have been completely overwhelmed, forced to treat patients in the open air or in stairways to avoid the foul weather.

The overwhelmed hospitals in the hardest-hit regions are just the ones still standing after Saturday's monster earthquake. Many others were reduced to rubble, and that's left victims scrambling for help anywhere they can find it. Many have flooded into the capital, Port-au-Prince.

A woman on a stretcher is pictured with a baby after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes
A woman on a stretcher is pictured with a baby after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, August 15, 2021. ESTAILOVE ST-VAL/REUTERS

Duthiers met a doctor at one hospital in the capital who said he'd seen more than 100 victims with crush injuries from the quake in just 48 hours.

While Tropical Storm Grace brought rain, it wasn't as bad as some feared it might be — good news for the thousands of residents in the hard-hit west of the country who were still without shelter. Just like after the devastating quake of 2010, from which Haiti has yet to fully recover, people were left sleeping in the streets, and any serious flooding would have compounded the dangers.

Aftermath of a 7.2 magnitude quake in Les Cayes
A man stands in front of a tent in a makeshift camp after tropical depression Grace passed through the area following Saturday's 7.2 magnitude quake, in Les Cayes, Haiti, August 17, 2021. RICARDO ARDUENGO/REUTERS

The part of Haiti hit by the latest quake was already plagued by gang violence and crime, leading the United Nations to warn of security concerns for humanitarian workers. Duthiers said that in all the years he's been traveling to Haiti as a reporter, he'd never seen such a lack of security personnel on the country's roads.

Those roads, he notes, are vital to the rescue and recovery efforts, and many remained unpassable on Tuesday due to earthquake damage, or criminal gangs controlling them.

Both problems have been recurrent, if not consistent, in Haiti. Duthiers said the Haitian government, plagued by corruption and infighting, has never managed to secure its roadways in 15 or 20 years. That makes the distribution of food, rescue and medical supplies even more challenging.

Unlike some other countries hit by natural disasters, many of Haiti's compounding problems are manmade: A lack of accountability for the government and elected leaders; non-governmental organizations that come in and raise huge sums of money, but then funnel it through the leadership in a way that it never reaches regular Haitians in need; and other countries that have meddled in Haiti's politics for many years.

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As Duthiers points out, Haiti has long served as a beacon of hope for the wider world. It became the first independent Black nation in the western hemisphere after fighting off French colonial rule and ending slavery just after the turn of the 19th century.

Taking their inspiration from the people in the United States and France, the people of Haiti fought for their liberty and won it, only to suffer for decades thereafter from the ineptitude and ill will of those at home and abroad who sought to do them harm.

The death toll from the earthquake was expected to rise further as rescue and recovery efforts resume on Tuesday following Monday's storm, and there was hope, at least, that the eventual toll won't near that inflicted by the 2010 quake, which claimed at least 100,000 lives.

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