PORT-AU-PRINCE — Saying there is little hope of finding more people alive more than 10 days after the earthquake, Haiti’s government declared the search and rescue phase for survivors over, the United Nations said Saturday.
The government’s Friday afternoon decision does not mean rescue teams still looking for survivors would be stopped, a U.N. spokeswoman told the Associated Press.
The statement from the U.N. came a day after rescue workers freed a 22-year-old man entombed in the ruins of Port-au-Prince for 10 days.
As of Friday, the Haitian government had confirmed 111,481 deaths and accounted for some 609,000 people without shelter in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, according to the U.N. statement from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Earlier estimates said the 7.0-magnitude quake that struck Jan. 12 killed 200,000 and left about 1.5 million Haitians homeless.
On Saturday, more than 1,000 mourners gathered near the ruins of the capital’s shattered cathedral to pay final respects to Msgr. Joseph Serge Miot, the archbishop of Port-au-Prince, and Charles Benoit, the vicar, in a somber ceremony that doubled as a symbolic funeral for all the dead.
Only a small number of funerals have been held since the earthquake, with most people buried anonymously in mass graves on the outskirts of the city.
The international community is scrambling to keep disease and injury from claiming more victims.
The U.N. said anywhere from 500,000 to 700,000 survivors are living in squalid tent cities that have sprouted around Port-au-Prince. Of the 350 encampments that have been surveyed, only six have access to drinking water, the U.N. reported. That has left the survivors, many injured and weak with hunger, vulnerable to disease.
The Haitian government is already busing residents of Port-au-Prince to relatively intact towns in the countryside. On Friday, officials said they also plan to relocate survivors to six safer, cleaner tent cities outside the capital. Each of the new encampments will hold 20,000 people, the U.N. said.
Brazilian U.N. peacekeepers and work crews have begun clearing a site at Croix-des-Bouquets, just northeast of Port-au-Prince, for what may become a tent city for 30,000 people, the International Organization for Migration said.
As many as 200,000 have fled the city of two million, the U.S. Agency for International Development reported, citing a Haitian survey of bus stations and of sources in destination towns.
The scramble for better living conditions comes as aid is beginning to arrive in earnest. Cargo shipments were being unloaded at the capital’s main port after it was repaired on Thursday, and planes were landing around-the-clock at the Port-au-Prince airport and three other airfields.
“We want to get relief supplies off the field and out of the port and into the hands of the Haitian people,” said U.S. Army Col. Charles C. Heatherly Jr., of Joint Task Force-Haiti.
On Friday, Cuba helped expedite the process by agreeing to let all U.S. military and civilian aircraft carrying humanitarian relief fly straight to the Guantánamo Bay Navy Base through Cuban airspace.
From there, supplies will be relayed to the earthquake-stricken nation through international air corridors.
The agreement builds on an earlier week-old waiver from Havana that allowed a handful of medical evacuation flights from Guantánamo to bring U.S. citizens straight to Miami, rather than zigzag around Cuban airspace.
Though U.S. troops and other agencies are delivering humanitarian aid to four distribution hubs and 105 satellite feeding sites throughout the city, many living in makeshift camps do not know where and when to receive the aid.
Etienne Labande, head of programs for the U.N. World Food Program, said aid agencies have not been communicating effectively. Even so, Labande said the number of distribution points was growing and that the WFP fed about 90,000 people on Friday. Also on Friday, the group began distributing 15-day rations of rice, beans and oil.
With the hope of finding survivors waning, no more than 10 of the original 43 international disaster teams were still operating Friday, said Tim Callaghan of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is coordinating U.S. relief and rescue efforts.
Even so, late Friday, the Israeli Defense Forces said they had pulled a 22-year-old man from the rubble of a three-story building.
The man, they said was “whole and healthy.”
By JACQUELINE CHARLES, LESLEY CLARK, AND DAVID OVALLE of The Miami Herald