PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Trapped beneath the crumbled remains of her home, the cries of the 9-year-old girl could be heard begging for rescue as neighbors clawed at sand and debris with their bare hands.
It had been two days since the earthquake collapsed the cinderblock home, trapping Haryssa Keem Clerge inside the basement. Friends and neighbors braved aftershocks to climb over the rubble, one of hundreds of toppled structures teetering on the side of a ravine.
In a city full of people desperately waiting for more help than neighbors can muster, it never came for Haryssa.
Just hours after her screams renewed rescuers’ hopes Thursday, the child’s lifeless body was finally pulled from the mass of concrete and twisted metal. Wrapped in a green bath towel, it was placed inside a loose desk drawer. With nowhere to take it, the body was then left on the hood of a battered Isuzu Trooper.
“There are no police, no anybody,” said the child’s despairing godmother, Kettely Clerge. Neighbors had to hold her back as she walked toward the building’s winding, partially collapsed stairway, wailing: “I want to see her!”
A day earlier, the little girl’s mother, Lauranie Jean, was pulled from the rubble of the same house. She lay moaning inside a tent Thursday as volunteers rubbed ointment into open wounds on her sides.
The family has now taken refuge in a dirt playground — one of hundreds of open spaces across Port-au-Prince that people are filling each night to try to avoid the risk of aftershocks.
Haitians living in the capital’s growing tent cities say they do not expect help anytime soon.
“People are waiting for someone to take care of them,” said Michel Reau, 27, who brought his wife and infant child to the park after their home collapsed. “We are out of food. We are out of water.”
A neighbor, Bellefleur Jean Heber, said Kettely Clerge had doted on little Haryssa, a bright and lively child whom she raised as though she were her own daughter. Each day, she walked the girl to school in their Petionville neighborhood, where Haryssa was known as a dedicated student.
As word spread Thursday that the child was still alive, more than a dozen people raced to help.
Inside the cramped basement, Haryssa was discovered trapped by a partially collapsed roof. Rescuers got close enough to pass her water but they could not get food to her before she died.
Heber said nobody expected help from authorities.
“Haiti is an abandoned country,” he said. “People are relying on themselves.”
Across Port-au-Prince, similar tragedies unfolded on Thursday. At the St. Gerard School, Cindy Terasme broke into sobs when she caught sight of her 14-year-old brother Jean Gaelle Dersmorne’s feet protruding from the rubble. The child was dead.
So was another schoolgirl known only as Ruth, whose dust-covered legs dangled lifelessly from the collapsed wall she was trapped under.
An unknown number of people remain buried after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Tuesday, collapsing houses, office buildings and a children’s hospital. Haitians used sledgehammers and their bare hands to search for survivors or bodies, piling the dead up at roadsides across the city.
The mayor of Port-au-Prince, Muscadin Jean Yves Jason, said one of his top priorities is to clear the bodies off the streets. But he said he has nowhere near the resources he needs to help the injured.
“We have nothing to do our job,” said the mayor, who pleaded for sister cities in the U.S. including Miami, to send assistance. “We have no materials, no resources, nothing.”
The city began preparing a mass grave for the dead on Thursday, with backhoes and other heavy equipment creating space inside a cemetery. Bodies waiting for burial were piled in heaps of as many as six people, many of them bloodied. One dead woman’s hands were still stretched out as if exclaiming in grief.
A parade of pickup trucks, push carts and people carrying bodies on makeshift shelters added to the piles one by one.