Chinese doctor gives eyewitness account of quake-shaken Haiti

14:01, January 20, 2010      

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Wang Mingxin, a doctor with the Chinese rescue team in Haiti, has witnessed the destruction and rescue efforts in the Haitian capital, which was hit by a 7.3-magnitude earthquake last week.

The following are excerpts from his diary.

Jan. 14 (Thursday) Overcast

We were briefed soon after our arrival in Port-au-Prince at 2:20 a.m.:

Building collapses are common in the city, where weak hollow bricks are used as building blocks; the collapse of prisons has scattered many of the inmates onto streets; eight Chinese nationals working for the UN mission in Haiti are unaccounted for and are believed to have been buried in the rubble.

While other Chinese rescuers are setting up a field command in tents, a few of us rushed to the UN Stabilization Mission HQ, where we met colleagues from a U.S. rescue team that had arrived half an hour earlier.

The American rescuers have found a survivor in the UN building but have located no other sign of life there.

As we waited for the arrival of special rescue equipment, we inspected the UN building, which has seven storeys above ground and another three storeys below. The storeys from the third floor up have all collapsed.

The Chinese staffers working at the UN mission were believed to have been on the fourth floor when the earthquake struck.

Forty-eight hours have already elapsed since the quake, and so has the chance of finding more survivors in the UN building.

But the rescue operation chief has decided: Find them all, alive or dead, and bring them home.

Our way down to those buried in the debris is pinpointed at the roof of the collapsed building.

As a doctor with the rescue squad, I was assigned to work in a mobile clinic in front of the Haitian prime minister's office.

Once the Haitians seeking refuge in the open gardens near the prime minister's office saw the clinic, they swarmed to us, seeking treatment for mostly external wounds and bone fractures.

Ninety-five percent of the wounds are festering, some of which may cause permanent damage and may even turn out to be fatal.

We immediately started treating these people with whatever we had at the time.

By 5:30 p.m., when we had to return to our field command for replenishment of medicine and medical equipment, we had treated more than 100 people.

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