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Big aftershock frightens quake-struck country

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM


A POWERFUL aftershock sent Haitians screaming into the streets yesterday, collapsing buildings, cracking roads and adding to the trauma of a nation stunned by an apocalyptic quake eight days ago.

The magnitude 6.1 jolt matched the strongest of the aftershocks that have followed the huge quake of January 12 that devastated Haiti's capital.

The new temblor collapsed seven buildings in Petit-Goave, the seaside town closest to the epicentre, according to Mike Morton of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination agency, but there were no reports of people crushed or trapped, perhaps because the earlier quake frightened most people into sleeping outside.

Rescue efforts interrupted

Wails of terror erupted in Port-au-Prince, where the aftershock briefly interrupted rescue efforts amid the broken concrete of collapsed buildings, and prompted doctors and patients to flee the University Hospital.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians remain homeless, hungry and in mourning, most still waiting for the benefits of a nearly $1-billion global aid campaign that has brought hundreds of doctors and thousands of troops to the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Additional medical aid

The United States navy's floating hospital, USNS Comfort, dropped anchor in view of the capital yesterday with about 550 medical staff, joining teams from about 30 other countries trying to treat the injured.

About 250,000 people were hurt in the quake and aid groups say many people have died for lack of medical care or adequate equipment.

A slow vibration intensified into side-to-side shaking that lasted about eight seconds. Some in Port-au-Prince said the far stronger January 12 quake seemed to last for 30 seconds.

At least one woman died of a heart attack, according to Eddy Thomas, a private undertaker who was wheeling her body along a street in Port-au-Prince: "She had a heart condition, and the new quake finished her."

The US Geological Survey said the aftershock was centred about 35 miles (60 kilometres) west-southwest of Port-au-Prince and 6.2 miles (10 kilometres) below the surface.

Debris more compact

The shaking ripped eight-inch (20-centimetre) cracks in a road west of the capital near Leogane, where US marines were setting up a post to aid quake victims sleeping on streets, in culverts and in driveways, often under tree branches draped with sheets to guard against the sun.

The latest quake, combined with a light rain on Tuesday, has complicated rescue efforts, said Dr Yi Ting Tsai, part of a Taiwanese crew digging for survivors near the ruined cathedral.

"The problem is the rain and the new quake this morning has made the debris more compact," he said.

International aid teams have saved 121 people from the rubble, an unprecedented number, according to aid organisation.