Haiti Dispatch: “I cannot leave. I love her.”

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Latest email from Jay Newton-Small:

This morning we visited a textile factory near our hotel in the blue collar Carrefour neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Palma Apparel employed 10,000 Haitians making t-shirts. About 1,000 people got [out] immediately after the earthquake but an estimated 9,000 remained beneath the rubble. We were told the owner, a M. Villa of Pition Ville (a rich hilltop suburb which was also badly hit where we’re going this afternoon), brought American search and rescue teams through yesterday but they determined that none was left living. A 21-year-old boy, Evans Brice stood silently before the rubble. The mangled corpse on a woman half crushed beneath the concrete, her head down as if in defeat, hung before him. It was his girlfriend of five years, Jean Fiona, also 21. She’d been working at the factory for a year. Brice has lingered here since finding her, rubbing his wallet full of her pictures against his heart and sobbing. “I cannot leave, I love her,” he says, his hand reaching out to nearly touch her hair powdered white with concrete dust.

Nearby was a Catholic school, Katherine Flan. Some 700 high school students were inside – caught right as the day schoolers were about to let out and the night schoolers were starting classes, said Fritz Pierre, who has worked as a security guard for the school since 1982. He was there the day of the earthquake. He said the four-story building teetered right, bounced off a neighboring building, then back, hitting another school building, before crumbling. For days there were shouts and pleas from under the rubble and neighbors and local police managed to drag 26 survivors out- though four died later. Nothing has been heard from the ruins since Thursday and no international rescue crews have come by yet. People there asked us to please tell anyone, everyone, to send food and water. The spaghetti factory down the road for a while sold pasta at twice the normal price but they ran out yesterday. There is nothing else available now. We are alerting the UN but food supplies remain bottled up at the airport and the few distributuon centers have been mobbed.

We were told there of a Hotel Sephona nearby, where trapped victims could still be heard. We rushed there, trying to call the Israeli search and rescue teams (whose #s we got yesterday at another site) but local cell service has deteriorated in recent days and we couldn’t get through. Anyway, when we arrived we found a wrecking crew from Orange Camtel, a cell phone company out of Santo Domingo, about to take down the place to salvage the cell tower atop. Everyone we asked said there were four to seven dead inside and that no cries had been heard for days.

We’re now en route to Pition Ville- a steep hillside development that apparently crumbled like an accordian- more to come. Jay