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Haitians Flee Capital in Search of Aid, Shelter


Haiti's government and aid groups are struggling to respond to the housing needs of tens of thousands of people affected by last week's earthquake. Some people are trying to leave the damaged city behind.

Buses stream out of the Haitian capital, packed with people in search of a safe and stable place to live, as aftershocks continue to rattle the city's residents. Some are heading back to their family homes in smaller towns on the coast or in rural parts of the Caribbean nation. Others simply hope to find a place that is free of aftershocks and free of the fear of falling buildings.

Scores of people remain in Port-au-Prince, where tent communities have emerged for both poor and wealthy residents who lost their homes in Tuesday's quake. Health experts say living conditions in the makeshift communities pose serious health concerns.

Haitian officials are studying plans to build temporary housing for those affected by the earthquake. It is unclear how soon the sites could be ready and if they could accommodate the tens of thousands of people affected by the disaster.

Across the street from the Presidential Palace, Vivienne Riviere and her family sleep under a tarp, surrounded by their belongings. She says people are still waiting to get help from the government.

She says she may move out to a temporary housing site, but she still wants to know if the government will pay to rebuild her old home.

Across town in the vast slum of Cite Soleil, residents complain they have received almost no aid from Haitian officials or foreign governments.

In the Boston neighborhood, injured residents gathered at a make-shift triage center in front of the Mission Ranch health clinic. Volunteers at the compound say it is one of few buildings that remain, after their orphanage and school were damaged.

Pastor Mark Dreibelbis of Mission Ranch says the only outside help has come from a United Nations team on Thursday. "We saw the blue helmets down here with a truck, they were giving out [nine-kilogram] bags of food. There should be another truck of water, we hope. It is so sporadic, and Cite Soleil is a slum of about 200,000 people. It's almost impossible to care for," he said.

Dreibelbis says a growing concern is that jailed gang members who escaped during the earthquake are now coming home. He says residents fear the gangsters will eventually return to what it is they do best: robbery, murder and rape.

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