x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Haiti school collapse kills dozens

Rescuers race to retrieve survivors after a hillside school collapses, killing at least 47 and injuring many more.

PETIONVILLE, HAITI // A hillside school where roughly 500 pupils usually crowded into several floors collapsed during classes yesterday, killing at least 58 people and injuring 107. Rescuers used their bare hands to pull bleeding students from the wreckage. Neighbours suspected the building was poorly rebuilt after it partially collapsed eight years ago, said Jimmy Germain, a French teacher at the school. He said people who lived just downhill abandoned their land out of fear that the building would tumble onto them, and that the school's owner tried to buy up their vacated properties.

The UN military commander Maj Gen Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz said the accident is the worst he has seen since coming to Haiti almost two years ago. At least 39 bodies were brought to the morgue at Port-au-Prince's General Hospital, the Haitian police spokesman Garry Desrosier said. Another eight people died in a trauma centre run by the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, spokesman Francois Servranckx said. More than 80 others were being treated for injuries by the aid group.

Rescuers worked furiously through the night under floodlights to pull children from the wreckage and give water to those still stuck in the rubble. Thousands looked on from beside the school and across the valley, cheering each time a live pupil emerged. But the rescue effort was chaotic and disorganised from the start. The throngs of grieving and screaming onlookers made it impossible for UN peacekeepers, Red Cross workers and Haitian authorities to bring lorries and heavy equipment for much of the afternoon. *Agencies