Israeli official arrives in Haiti to 'devastation on every corner'
Israeli envoy to Dominican Republic describes total absence of search and rescue efforts following earthquake.
It is doubtful that anything could have prepared Amos Radian for the unsightly scenes of anarchy and devastation that gripped Haiti in the wake of Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
Radian, Israel's ambassador to the Dominican Republic, described the carnage wrought on Haiti's capital Port Au Prince on Tuesday.
The envoy, who arrived in Haiti to prepare for the arrival of an Israeli relief delegation, spoke to Israeli reporters via satellite phone from the airport in Port Au Prince, one of the only remaining operational structures in the disaster-stricken city.
"There is a strange silence in the streets," he said. "Thousands of people are walking around aimlessly. As of yet, there is no one around to provide a solution to this catastrophe."
Radian told reporters of his brief encounter with Haitian President Rene Preval at the airport. "We've met several times in the past," he said, "but this time he looked pale and sad. I expressed to him Israel's deepest condolences for the tragedy that befell Haiti."
The airport where Radian addressed reporters has become the only operational command center in the country. "The airport looks like it is collapsing under the sheer volume of landings and takeoffs of relief planes," Radian said. "The airport is open. I can see at least 20 aircraft in all sizes, ranging from the giant American planes to the Belgian, French and Spanish ones. The Americans are operating the control tower, so the Israeli relief plane should have no problem landing."
Immediately after arriving in Haiti, the ambassador took a five-hour tour of Port Au Prince in a vehicle provided by the American embassy. He described the terrible scenes, saying "it was one of the most difficult sights I have seen in my life. The devastation can be seen on every corner, and thousands of people are just sitting in the streets and in public parks. There is no water, no electricity, no food and no fuel."
"I don't think anyone can gauge the number of casualties in this earthquake," he went on to say. "It would be very difficult to know how many people have been affected, and many will remain trapped under the rubble for many days. I've heard forecasts suggesting that the situation will only get worse in the coming days. There are dozens of bodies piled up at every street corner. It is a difficult sight."
While searching for a place to spend the night, Radian and the Israeli embassy security coordinator arrived at a small hotel, which turned out to be non-functional. "Hundreds of homeless people and injured people sat in front of the hotel and begged to be let in," Radian said. He left the area and continued to the American embassy, which Radian described as an "oasis of sanity" in the hell that is the Haitian capital. "We slept on benches in the American embassy," Radian said. "This is a safe haven and all the foreign diplomats in the city came there, including the Spanish ambassador whose embassy was destroyed, and he was hurt."
"There is unbelievable difficulty because anarchy abounds," he went on to say. "No one knows who is running this country and in the absence of authority, the U.S. has taken command."
"The United Nations force is not functioning, as many of its commanders were killed when the UN headquarters building collapsed. The law enforcement system as collapsed and police officers have not shown up at the stations. The Americans are starting to secure central facilities," Radian explained.
Even though thousands of people are still trapped under the rubble, at this time no rescue efforts have been undertaken in Port Au Prince. "With a pretty heavy heart I tell you that the individual assistance provided to the citizens is very difficult," Radian remarked. "There are no search and rescue teams because the local authorities do not exist."
Alongside the communication lines and other necessary infrastructure, hospitals have also shut down. Argentina and France have already set up a two small temporary hospitals. "I haven't seen a single ambulance or a single rescue mission," Radian said. "The situation is grim."
"Those attending to the injured and the dead are their own family members," he concluded.