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The Earthquake Left Thousands Of Haitians Injured And Homeless. Many Still Need Aid

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

An update now from Haiti on that country's disastrous week. There's the earthquake that occurred Saturday and has left more than 2,000 people dead. Then the tropical storm that struck and complicated relief efforts. Aid groups are struggling to get organized and help the thousands of injured people and many thousands of homeless people. NPR's Jason Beaubien has been covering this all week from different corners of Haiti. He joins us now from the airport at the capital, Port-au-Prince, to talk about what he has seen and heard. Hey, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Would you catch us up to speed? Just give us the broad-strokes overview on conditions right now in Haiti.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah, I mean, conditions remain dire for, you know, tens of thousands of people. The estimates are that 40% of the population in the three southern departments, which are basically the provinces of Haiti, are homeless. They either lost their homes entirely, or their homes were damaged. So we're talking about huge numbers of people. The estimate is about a half-a-million people who are in that condition. And, you know, we've been seeing tent cities pop up all over the - basically, the city of Les Cayes. It was sort of the hardest hit, and it was also the largest population center. And people are sleeping, basically, just out in the open, you know, with maybe even just a sheet over them, some people with some plastic. The conditions remain very dire for huge numbers of people.

KELLY: Well, and I learned from your reporting this week there are so many obstacles to trying to help people - you know, shortage of medical supplies, roads that are impassable. How are aid groups doing it, trying to get where they need to be to help people?

BEAUBIEN: You know, the aid groups will definitely tell you that they would have liked to have gotten in faster, but the conditions are very difficult. There is one main road that goes from Port-au-Prince down to that part of the country. Prior to the quake, it was controlled by gangs, and supplies couldn't even get through there. They've worked out a deal. They've allowed that road to reopen. We came back through that road yesterday. It was covered in mud. It was packed. We were just crawling along. Relief trucks were also stuck in that horrible traffic in the mud. But all of these people who had not been able to pass through this place, Martissant, all of a sudden were trying to get through so that we had another bottleneck there.

In addition, you've got some communities that are still cut off. You know, there were landslides that blocked roads. Injured are still sort of emerging from some of these places ending up at the hospital. So getting to everyone remains a huge challenge here.

KELLY: Yeah. And, you know, you got there shortly after this enormous earthquake.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah.

KELLY: You rode out the tropical storm there. I'm sure you're trying to process everything that you've been through this week. Just recap the trajectory for us, what you have been hearing from Haitians who are trying to hang on, day by day.

BEAUBIEN: You know, just initially, it's just this shock that people are in. And people are - after an earthquake, people are incredibly on edge. They're just ready at any moment for the building to start shaking. You know, the stress that an earthquake causes is kind of amazing because you just don't know when an aftershock is going to hit, when you have to run out of the building. Some of that is easing off, and people are starting to look at, well, what do I do now? What do I need to do to get my life together, to get a place to sleep? Yeah, I think sort of people are moving into that next phase. They're past this initial blow and looking forward.

KELLY: Yeah. So just briefly, what are the next major obstacles in the coming weeks?

BEAUBIEN: Immediately, it's going to be shelter. People absolutely are going to need places to stay. There's going to need to be some planning about what that looks like. You know, after the 2010 quake, people were stuck in camps for months, years. There's still some of those camps that still exist. So there needs to be some planning on that front, and that's going to be one of the big challenges as things move forward.

KELLY: That is NPR's Jason Beaubien at the airport in Port-au-Prince. He has been reporting from that country all week on the myriad challenges facing the people of Haiti. Thank you, Jason.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.