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The Haitian City Of Les Cayes Is Struggling To Recover After Earthquake

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In Haiti, aid groups are ramping up efforts to get supplies to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Saturday's earthquake. Meanwhile, the number of dead and wounded continues to rise. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in one of the hardest-hit cities, Les Cayes. He's checking on the medical and aid situation there.

Hi, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hi. Looks like we have a little bit of a delay. So what are you seeing in terms of the needs right now in this part of Haiti?

BEAUBIEN: You know, treating the wounded continues to be one of the top priorities. We spent much of the day at the general hospital here in Les Cayes. The wards are packed, and the injured just keep coming. I was talking with Dr. Titus Antoine, who runs the emergency room, and he says he keeps expecting the inflow of patients to slow down, but it doesn't.

TITUS ANTOINE: We're still getting a lot of people. Like you seeing now, I'm sweating and all that. But yet we have a lot of people, a lot of - many people since the earthquake.

BEAUBIEN: Some people are emerging from areas that have been cut off by landslides or roads that were destroyed for the last five days, so some routes are now opening up. Other people had wounds that weren't life-threatening and there - simply weren't able to get care earlier. But now, the emergency room at the general hospital is so crowded that nurses are bandaging patients outside on wooden benches. And then over at the surgical ward, the hallways are just packed with patients on gurneys.

CHANG: Wow. In terms of medical supplies, it sounds like there's such a great need right now, but are they actually getting these supplies, these hospitals?

BEAUBIEN: You know, medical supplies were some of the first things shipped in. And the doctors that we talked to said that bandages and sutures are sort of in low supply, but just as they start to run out, another aid group shows up with more, so they're managing to get by. One thing they don't have are medicines to send patients home with - no antibiotics after surgery, no pain meds, not even aspirin. Patients or their families have to find all those things and pay for them themselves. And one nurse in the surgical department, you know, she says she worries that some patients, that they come in and they do surgery on them and then they go home, and they may end up dying from infections.

CHANG: Terrible. But is there a sense at least that the aid operation is picking up now that Tropical Storm Grace is subsiding?

BEAUBIEN: Yes, definitely. I mean, yesterday, this area was getting pounded with the winds and rain from Tropical Storm Grace. You know, almost all aid operations were suspended yesterday. But today, helicopters were going in and out of the airport. They were bringing in aid workers, bringing in supplies. We ran into Nathan Bates with Medic Corps out of Arkansas. They brought in a helicopter and a small plane to help.

NATHAN BATES: We have two focuses. One is get critical patients out or potential critical patients like, you know, anyone who's high risk, if they have no access. Our next goal is we're collecting intel to know exactly how many people are on location, what their ages are, the demographics, so we can do supply drops.

BEAUBIEN: You know, in addition, the UN's World Food Programme, they're bringing helicopters in. And we saw them flying in and out most of the day today, bringing in both aid workers and supplies. And later, we saw the first distribution of stuff that we'd seen since we've arrived here. UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross were distributing tarps, blankets. They had these five-gallon buckets with basic sanitary supplies - you know, toilet paper, toothpaste, things like that, things that so many people lost in the midst of that quake.

CHANG: That is NPR's Jason Beaubien in the city of Les Cayes, Haiti.

Thank you so much, Jason.

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