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Major Aftershock Rocks Earthquake-Stricken Haiti

A huge crowd of Haitians follows soldiers with the 82nd Airborne division through a street in Port-au-Prince. Most of them are living in a tent city set up in a soccer field adjoining a U.S. field hospital.
John Poole
A huge crowd of Haitians follows soldiers with the 82nd Airborne division through a street in Port-au-Prince. Most of them are living in a tent city set up in a soccer field adjoining a U.S. field hospital.

A powerful aftershock struck Haiti early Wednesday, sending frightened survivors from last week's devastating earthquake scrambling out of already damaged structures and into the streets.

The temblor, originally estimated at magnitude 6.1, but later revised to 5.9, occurred just eight days after the massive earthquake that demolished buildings in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, killing perhaps as many as 200,000 people and throwing the country into chaos.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it was sending more than 2,000 additional U.S. Marines to the area, adding to the thousands of American troops already on the ground or offshore. Officials said the 2,200-strong 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which had been en route from Norfolk, Va., to the Persian Gulf, would be diverted to Haiti.


'All The Walls Started Shaking Here'

The latest aftershock hit just after 6 a.m. about 35 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince and 13.7 miles below the surface, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It was not immediately clear whether it caused more damage or injuries.

NPR's Carrie Kahn, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said that in her hotel, "You heard yelling, 'Run, run, go!' I heard debris falling, and everyone was out as quick as they could."

The shaking lasted "probably about 10 seconds," said Jackie Northam, another NPR correspondent staying at the same hotel. "It was a deep, deep rumble under the ground and all the walls started shaking here.

"They've had aftershocks in the past week. Some have been large, some have been small, but this one was very big," Northam said. More than 40 significant aftershocks have followed the Jan. 12 quake.


That magnitude 7 event left 250,000 injured and made 1.5 million homeless, according to the European Union Commission.

Haiti can expect even more aftershocks in the days and weeks to come, said Bruce Pressgrave, a geophysicist with the USGS. He says the aftershocks are a sign that the ground underneath the quake zone is adjusting to "the new reality of the rock layers."

Relief Supplies Reaching Remote Areas

Coordinating a massive international relief effort to get food and water to survivors has proved difficult in some areas, with reports of looting and violence in parts of the quake-affected zone.

David Orr, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program, told NPR's Morning Edition that the agency was setting up four fixed distribution points in Port-au-Prince and was beginning to reach devastated areas outside the capital that had been cut off by blocked roads and collapsed infrastructure.

"We are flying, for example, high-energy biscuits into the outlying areas, such as the town of Jacmel, which was badly hit and was unreachable until recently because the road was down due to a mudslide," Orr said.

So far, Orr said, the WFP had served about 133,000 beneficiaries, mostly with high-energy biscuits, as well as rice, legumes, oil and salt. He said the agency hoped to serve 2 million quake survivors but that it could be weeks or perhaps a month before that goal was reached.

Orr acknowledged that the aid distributions to date had not been "textbook."

He noted that "we certainly haven't seen any incidents of panic or anything out of control."

Food Melee In Port-au-Prince

But a different story emerged in some areas of the city Tuesday. On a golf course in Port-au-Prince, NPR correspondents witnessed a scene that bordered on chaos as U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne tried to keep order while food was distributed.

Thousands of Haitians converged on the makeshift aid distribution point. What started out as a fairly orderly operation quickly got out of control as some 25,000 people swarmed the site.

In a bid to restore calm, U.S. Army Capt. John Hartzog ordered his men to take three steps back and sit down. It worked, as many Haitians apparently sensed the gesture was meant to ease the tension.

"I'm thinking about possibly, maybe not tomorrow, but the next day ... having them sit down right off the bat," Hartzog said. "We've tried different things. Sometimes it goes smooth, sometimes it doesn't."

Andre Bouchard, the chief security officer for the U.N. operation in Haiti, says some areas of Port-au-Prince have proved difficult to control.

"The thing is that we don't have currently an order to say that we can contain specific areas," Bouchard said. "We have a situation where we can have looting happening roughly anywhere around town."

More than a week after the earthquake, the prospect of finding more survivors has dimmed, though there have been some improbable successes.

In Jacmel, an infant was pulled alive and apparently unhurt from the rubble of a crushed house. "That's a miracle, man. A miracle," said onlooker France Lambert.

Children Turned Away At Orphanages

Many children have been left parentless, and already overcrowded orphanages have been forced to refuse new arrivals.

At one orphanage, babies were sleeping in the back of a dilapidated Isuzu truck, while toddlers were in a tent and the teenagers in the open, NPR's Jason Beaubien reported.

The Port-au-Prince facility housed about 150 children, many of whom were destined for families in the U.S. before the quake. About 10 of them already had passports but were waiting for the last few bureaucratic wrinkles to be ironed out.

The staff is "just hoping to get all of these orphans out of Port-au-Prince," Beaubien said. "They would like to airlift all of them to the United States immediately."

Children who are being turned away at the capital's packed orphanages are "probably getting absorbed with the other people sleeping on the streets," he said. "Those children are incredibly vulnerable — it's very unclear what is going to happen with these children that have lost both parents to the quake."

Fleeing The Quake Zone

As international aid groups try to get relief supplies into devastated areas, many Haitians were boarding buses in the capital's Cite Soleil slum to take them north, away from the earthquake zone.

People desperate to get out filled the makeshift station, where flatbed trucks and brightly festooned old American school buses were packed high with personal belongings.

"It's not possible to live in Port-au-Prince right now, because we don't have a house." Juanita Laura Lee told NPR as she waited to board one of the buses.

She was making her way to Cap-Haitien, about 100 miles north of the capital, along with her sister and three children.

"I don't know when I'm going to come back," she says.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report

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