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Dispatches from Disaster:

January 18th, 2010
10:22 PM ET

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="AMANPOUR. 's Vladimir Duthiers is in Haiti helping report and translate for Anderson Cooper"]

Our production assistant Vladimir Duthiers is in Haiti, helping to report and translate with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We are keeping track of his updates from the ground with photos, a video diary and text messages:

Dr. Sanjay Gupta with Etienne Lebien, a 15-day-old baby with a head wound injury. We came across Mr. Jean Fritz Logicel who was carrying little Etienne in search of a doctor:

A body on the streets of Port au Prince. In the early days after the quake struck, many survivors carried bodies out of destroyed homes and left them on the side of the road.

We discovered a mass grave where bodies that were picked up from the streets by earth movers and carted away in dump trucks. They were then placed in massive, freshly dug holes at least 50 feet deep on the outskirts of Port Au Prince. We did not notice anyone trying to identify the bodies. At this point, a few days after the quake, most bodies were bloated and unrecognizable. Still, I can only imagine what it will be like for the hundreds, perhaps thousands of families who will never know the final resting place of a loved one.

The mass graves were being placed a few feet away from a what our driver thought was a grave for victims Hurricane in 2008. One person told me that they felt that Haiti was "made to suffer."

Manouchka Polynice waits for word on weather the Los Angeles County Fire Department is able to find her 10-year-old daughter Laika whom she believes is alive underneath the rubble of a daycare center. Sadly, after almost nine hours of digging, the search is called off. Manouchka tells us she knows in her heart that Laika is alive and begs us to return to the next day. This happened almost four days ago on January 16. With survivors as young as 5 and as old as 69 being found as of January 20, I can't get Manouchka's pleas out of my head.

A convent school in Leogane, Haiti where locals estimated that several hundred girls aged 10 to 17, were killed when the school collapsed. Written on one of the chalkboards in a classroom not damaged were the words "May God Receive You with Open Arms"

CNN cameraman Neil Hallsworth and I Racing to report on hundreds of Haitians looting a shop on Centre Street in Port Au Prince. Looters cart out boxes of candles which they then sell a few feet from where they were pilfered at inflated prices. With electricity out in most of the city, residents are all two willing to pay these prices. Store owners fire guns into the air to scare off the looters but they keep coming back.

  • January 26: I thought I was used to the stench of rotting human flesh, but today it was unbearable. Right at the foot of our hotel, locals managed to pull two bodies from the rubble of a building next door. As the trucks used to pick up the dead were perhaps slow in coming, people decided to burn them.  It's a sight and smell that I will never forget.
  • January 25: We spent the day reporting on efforts by groups like Save the Children and UNICEF to help and protect the thousands of children who have lost family members in the earthquake. Foreigners anxious to adopt Haitian children are circumventing the adoption red tape by trying to adopt kids directly. This has led to reports of child trafficking – a condition that existed in Haiti even before the quake. Many children are sold as domestic workers or worse. Bo Viktor Nylund, a Child Protection Officer at UNICEF, tells me that "whenever you have great poverty, there are risks of sexual exploitation." Nylund manages an Interim Care Center for children in the town of Lilavois, Haiti. We met some incredible orphans who have been through hell, yet still manage to sing and dance at a moment’s notice.
  • January 24: I visited the tomb of my grandparents. I was worried that the graves would be disturbed either by the quake itself or by people replacing those interred for many years with the bodies of quake victims. Thankfully, with the exception of a few crumbled blocks, it was undisturbed. It was an incredibly emotional moment for me as I never knew my grandparents. Standing in the midst of hell, I was able to taste a small slice of heaven.
  • January 23: I have been visiting several hospitals in Port-au-Prince over the last couple of days and the scene there is even more heartbreaking than it was during my first days in Haiti. Back then – and it really does feel as if it were a long time ago – we were confronted by the sight of dead bodies on the streets and sidewalks of the city. But for those people, the pain is over. For others left behind, judging by the screams in hospital and medical tents put up in the fields, it's only just begun. Some of the field hospitals are better equipped than others, but all are staffed by dedicated medical professionals. The best that I've seen thus far is being managed by the University of Miami near the Toussaint L'Overture airport. Dr. Dan Diamond of Medical Teams International tells us that he has never seen so many broken bones and amputations at a disaster site. However, he says that getting it up and running so quickly and efficiently was "divine serendipity."
  • January 21: At the General Hospital of Port-au-Prince, Sergeant First Class Daymond Graves, a 14 year veteran with two tours in Iraq under his belt with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, tells me that he hasn't seen much violence in Haiti except for the occasional drunk. His unit is posted at the hospital charged with providing 24-hour security. Sgt. Graves feels that the U.S. Army's presence has made foreign medical workers more comfortable, which in turn has led to an increase in medical personnel on the ground. Nighttime is especially wrenching. "People screaming all night long”, he says. Sgt. Graves also says the Haitian people are "really hurting right now. We are trying to get supplies in here which I know they don't have enough of. I wish I had medication to give them myself."
  • January 20: I was awakened by a significant aftershock approximately at 6am this morning. I felt the earth start to sway and the building creaking and groaning. I jumped and raced outside in my underwear. Across the street on the Champ de Mars. Hundreds of people who have been sleeping there since the quake it started to cry out into the morning dawn. It was unsettling and nerve racking.
  • Video diary from January 19:
  • January 19: After we discovered that the 69-year-old woman pulled out of the rubble of a building on the grounds of the national Cathedral was lying in afield hospital without a clear sense of when some crucial treatment might be administered to her, we were able to get a helicopter medical evacuation. They transferred her to the USS Bataan and will then take her to a hospital in Milot near Cap Haitian. See video below:
  • January 19: I've seen several UN soldiers in full body armor as if they expect an IED attack.
  • January 19: We are headed to Cite Soleil one of the poorest slums in Haiti. Miraculously left fairly intact after the quake since homes are just sheets of tin .
  • January 19: Standing in the middle of a mob of looters with gun shots ringing in the air, there is no sign of the UN or the US military or any kind of order whatsoever.
  • January 19: Today we decided to try to locate a young girl named Bea whom we saw pulled out of the rubble within hours of our arrival in Haiti last Tuesday. We wanted to see if she had received proper medical care and if her family was safe. As we got out of our pick up trucks, several shots rang out. We raced up the block to see what was happening and came upon a mob of several hundred Haitians looting a store. Initially, I thought they were after food but after speaking to several bystanders, I learned they were taking candles by the box. With Port-au-Prince still without electricity, you can imagine how valuable these are. So valuable in fact that as soon as a looter came out with a box, he set up shop directly on the sidewalk selling them at inflated black market prices. Anxious shop owners hired the Haitian police to stop the looters and from time to time officers fired shots into the air from their automatic rifles – provided by the shop owners since the police don't even have weapons these days – to disperse the crowd. It worked for only a few minutes. Looters would scatter only to return a few minutes later. In the midst of this chaos, I witnessed a tender act of kindness. A young man selling some kind of packaged food from a large burlap sack was haggling with a woman over the price. She asked if she could sample one before she paid for it and he agreed. He gave her a couple of packs and rather than taste one, she put them in her pocket and begged the man to give them to her as a gift. Smiling at her, he said no problem. "Consider it a gift," he said.  It was a sweet scene happening 10 feet away from a man swinging a wooden plank with nails in it for a chance to take what didn't belong to either of them.
  • January 16:  Searching for survivors with American firefighters from Los Angeles County and their rescue dogs.
  • January 15: A truck just arrived and dumped bodies into a mass grave where we estimate that several hundred bodies have already been dumped. It’s an area of unspeakable horror exacerbated by the fact that it doesn’t appear that anyone is keeping track of the names or who these people are. But they were someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband and we are having to bear witness to their passing from this earth.
  • January 15: We have just come across several large pits filled with bodies. Bodies bloated and unrecognizable, we don’t even know if they have been identified yet.
  • January 14: Yesterday was horrible: dead babies rotting in the street, dump trucks filled with corpses. Horrifying and sad.

Here's a report from AC360° of a mother desperately searching for her children. Vlad is in the aqua colored shirt translating between the mother and Anderson Cooper:

Standing in the middle of a mob of looters with gun shots ringing in the air, there is no sign of the UN or the US military or any kind of order whatsoever.

Filed under:  1 • Haiti
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Gerard Mc Ardle, Drogheda & Belfast, Ireland

    Dear Christine,

    I'm mad at this stage of this supposedly rescue;

    I saw you interviewing Ban Ki moon tonight & as I watched & after I felt so despondent. Is this man the right man for the job of General Secretary of the UN? He told you he said yesterday when he visited that country that he said to the people we will do everything possible to get the aid to them (or something to that effect) but I quite remember that yesterday (& it is on film) he asked the people to be patient. Now if that's not a horrible thing to say, I don't know what is, especially when there's enough food & supplies at the airport to feed the US & British army for a year or two in Iraq & Afghanistan. So I say, if this is not sorted out soon then after this operation the UN should be flattened to the ground & do away with all the bureaucrats that are working there & build a new organization with a new name up from the ground and put in charge some down to earth person that is for the victim's at all times, & not for bureaucratic ends at the expense of victim's caught up in such tragedy's & disarray. & not trying to be offensive...I think his lack of English is a hindrance.

    Today also, on the British C4 I saw a report that Israel, yes Israel, has a fantastic field hospital up & running with all the modern technology, medicine & medical staff while down the road American doctor's are running round & having to use, well nothing, because they have nothing. Seeing it's all at the airport on the ground there, while the lady doctor was telling Sarah Brown that she has a tent full of people dying from blood poisoning all for the want of antiseptic's & antibiotic's & painkiller tablets for their pain. But no, she's in a tent (& crying & saying she ashamed to be an American) which will soon be a graveyard because who ever is supposed to be in charge of coordinating this whole (I won't call it a rescue mission, yet, because that is not what it is) exercise is probably in the airport stuck in a box of Plastic of Paris & has enrolled himself up in same.

    Then there's former President Clinton on the steps of a plane after he arrived for a photo-shoot handling over boxes of aid to those below him to put on the ground, so slow, that if I was waiting for aid I would just rather lie down & die. What is the point of starting up this business if they don't know how to do it right...I mean they had plenty of practice with Katrina, (RIP to all it's victim's) & although the lay of the land is different in Haiti...& more damaged, have they not got someone with an ounce of intelligence that should be able to have a better result than what's on the ground by now. Nearly a week since the Earthquake" & just 5%/10% at most of the people have been given the basic's of water & some nutritional food. God forbid if there was ever a nuclear war started, I mean you wouldn't have to think twice that we would have no chance of surviving it, because we wouldn't. I suggest to you, that Mr Obama should fly out to Haiti straight away roll up his sleeves & get dug in with his people there on the ground to really give this a push, even if just for a day. Because if left till the day after tomorrow there isn't a chance in hell for the Haitian's at least not on this earth to survive this...maybe their place is in "Heaven" with God coordinating the peace of their souls & happiness for eternity. I hope tomorrow I can feel better about things…but I said the same yesterday & the day before, seems we can send men to the moon rocket's to Mars but we are having a hard terrible slog feeding & aiding people on Earth…these past six nearly seven days in Haiti!

    I wrote this next piece to an Irish paper today;

    This kind of tragedy always throws up two sides of the story;
    The few things that are good & the many things that are "Gory"!

    Haiti...may God help you & give you peace
    For the world even though it tried; can't!
    Well, at least not “Yet”! How long more will it be to that "Yet"?

    So Christina, I'm mad at this stage of this supposedly rescue; aren't you "Too"!

    I salute you & your CNN colleagues good work...hope you see good things soon...hope we all do. Thank you.

    January 19, 2010 at 1:18 am | Reply
  2. moune

    My best country is Haiti first of the Caribbean as the first liberated from slavery, they deserve all the credit. werder years I dream of building Haiti. All Haitians should be called to think and take shares in the reconstruction of the country.

    we like India poverty and tired of them thinking back to our land and building. I've been in Netherland good Haitianese seen people with leadership capacity.


    January 19, 2010 at 9:49 am | Reply
  3. moune

    like the people in india who left their country and outside the country going to study later come back to their country to build. The Haitians in the country also live outside return to Haiti to help the country develop. Haiti has a powerful full history to be proud of.

    January 19, 2010 at 10:09 am | Reply
  4. Carolyn Grady

    Dear Christiane:

    We were at New Hall School together in Owen's House. I remember you as a prefect in my first year at school. I write now in the hope that someone may share this message with you.

    For the last 4 years I have been very closely affiliated with Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti - situated about 40 miles from the epicenter of the quake. The hospital has been in Haiti for more than 54 years - founded by Larry Mellon - a Mellon heir - and his wife Gwen Mellon. It is one of the very few hospitals in the country equipped to cope with the disaster - and thankfully undamaged. Recognized as an Hopital de Reference (teaching hospital), the two ORs, labs and xrays have been operating around the clock - with almost 100% Haitian staff. The have their own power and water - and have been able to offer care uninterupted since the disaster. The first relief groups have arrived from Switzerland and Atlanta - but now they are out of antibiotics and pain meds - but the amputations continue! They are desperate for any assistance - especially as the flood of patients from Port-au-Prince picks up. Those making it to the hospital now are more seriously wounded. In essence - the hospital has the infrastructure to support the work (which is lacking in Port-au-Prince) - but none of the necessary supplies to continue their work (antibiotics, pain meds, etc.)

    Staff are working around the clock to figure out how to get supplies to the hospital. They can't reach many of the NGOs in Port-au-Prince to let them know their situation. They have a soccer field that has hosted helicopters in the past. It would be easy to chopper in some essentials.

    The hospital will definitely be a part of the reconstruction of Haiti's medical infrastructure. Over 400 Haitians have well-paid jobs at the hospital. The disaster is going to have a terrible impact on the operating budget of the hospital - which due to the disasters of the last few years has been in the red. The donations are pouring in - but we still need whatever increased awareness and support we can get.

    I think this will be a positive story - that talks about both the history and future of the country. I hope you or someone else at CNN can share this Haitian American success story. - and hasten some essential supplies to the hospital.

    With hope - because that's all that is left to us right now,

    Carolyn Grady
    New Hall 1980

    January 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Reply
  5. betty

    I am begging all of you (charitable organizations in Haiti, the Haitian government and all the reporters) advocating throwing these orphans just anywhere in this country and all others: I ask that you all THINK a millions times before you cause more psychological damage than has been imposed on these precious children. REMEMBER that NOT all homes are beneficial and or conducive to proper upbringing of children of any age. THINK OF THE potentials for abuse of all kinds that these unfortunate children might be heading for. I have yet heard anyone mention the words: qualifications, screning of prospective adoptive parents. DO NOT ADD TO their misery, they have had enough.

    January 22, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  6. SUZE

    Dear Christiane, I heard a story from one of my colleagues here at the hospital of Palm Beach county where I work, that children were disapearing in Haiti and feared kidnapped. If they are kidnapped in this time in Haiti it is probably not for ransom but for worst and darker ends, please, please address the issue of these lost children, besides seeing unidentified human bodies throwned in dumpsters the fate of the separated children has to be the worst. Please let's have more people worry about the poor children. Also we now know that some areas of Haiti like Carrefour, Leogane, Jacmel were possibly hit worst then Port au Prince and they did not receive much assistance for days, what is being done to help these people now. Please share with us because our hearts are aching and we fill all we can do is send money knowing that's not enough.

    January 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  7. Fernando F.

    Nice to see a young person (he looks young to me) Vladimir Duthiers to make such a rapid progress. By the way he writes, I can see that he is capable of delivering the news with a real feeling. I'm very happy for him that he is rewarded for his merits.

    January 24, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  8. Joyce - Chicago, IL

    Thank you for your continued coverage of the tragedy facing the Haitian people. Already it seems that most news sources–and people in general–have moved on as if ignoring suffering negates suffering. I cannot imagine what the people of Haiti are facing. I weep as I search for stories of the children/orphans of Haiti. They are so beautiful. There is so much that we must do for them. So many people seem to think that we should just let everyone fend for themselves. However, what is the point of life if we don't help one another? Each time I go to the grocery store, I am saddened by how much we have (too much) and how difficult it seems to get aid to the people who need help NOW. Weeping and praying for Haiti...

    January 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  9. Terry Washington State

    VLAD: Mr. Vladimir Duthiers. I saw you mentioned on Christiane's blog. I've seen you on AC360. Reading your blog here, well... Ms. Amanpour and CNN have one hellova producer with you. Your writing is relate-able and very heartfelt. The explanation of your grandparents grave was a touching mental picture. Keep doing your wonderful work there helping your mother land.

    January 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  10. Dan - New Jersey

    Vlad, It is shocking to see the pictures, read your blog, hear the stories and realize this country is a neighbor of ours. No nation in the history of the world has given more to assist those in need than the USA and I am certain we will do exactly that for our neighbors in Haiti. I think it is so important that you continue to cover this story in the vivid depth that you have brought to us, your readers so that we don't let this slip into the background and be forgotten. At this point Haiti and the world must must turn to the future starting with dealing with the survivors. There are a million Haitians living in the open and unless the world does something for these people the violence will only escalate and the situation deteriorate further. To me this is a test of the determination of the nations of the world to help a fallen country back on its feet.

    January 29, 2010 at 2:36 am | Reply
  11. Danielle

    What an amazing journey you had, Vladimir. Our deepest admiration goes out to you, Anderson Cooper, Sanjay Gupta, and all the CNN correspondants who put themselves in harm's way to cover this International tragedy. A special thanks goes out to the AC 360 team who were one of the first on the ground and it seems the last still providing meaningful coverage from Haiti. Vladimir's blog was a daily reminder not to take life for granted. Excellent journalism by CNN!

    January 29, 2010 at 2:56 am | Reply
  12. Eric Hirschfeld

    Extremely important coverage by CNN on this horrible tragedy.... thank you for what you are doing and please keep the reports on this story alive. There is a tendency of course for "compassion fatigue" but this cannot happen with a disaster on such a scope.

    Please keep up this vital work.

    January 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  13. Erika

    The pictures and videos in this blog are heart-wrenching. Thank you for keeping this story alive and for attempting to give us an unbiased and vivid picture of what the Haitian community is going through right now. CNN has done a superb job reporting on this story. Long after the cameras have left Haiti, the Haitian community will continue to feel the effects of this earthquake for generations to come. Keeping video diaries and capturing the suffering of the Haitian community will serve as reminders to us all that the struggle in Haiti is far from over. Bravo CNN.

    January 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Reply
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