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Aftershock Frightens Haitians
January 20, 2010

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A 5.9-magnitude aftershock rumbled through Haiti on Wednesday, providing a strong reminder (as if they needed it) to people still struggling to escape the aftereffects of last week's massive earthquake.

The tremor rolled through Port-au-Prince, the capital city, and into the surrounding countryside at 6:03 a.m. Many people were still asleep, but many more streamed into public areas, determined to avoid amy more debris that was falling from the sky. In the huge tent cities that ringed the ravaged inner city, refugees fled their temporary homes and gathered in large groups, huddling together in fear of what else was to come. No further aftershocks arrived. The one that came, though, and lasted 8 seconds was a chilling reminder of the quake itself, which lasted 30 seconds just a week ago. The net effect was that even more people were out on the streets, even though they had recently convinced themselves that it was all right to go back indoors.

The Haitian government estimated that at least 200,000 people were killed in the quake and that 2 million were homeless and 250,000 of those needed urgent aid. Steady streams of people entered temporary hospitals, seeking respite from the pain that has plagued them for a week now. Officials of Doctors Without Borders and other aid organizations reported that what they were doing was like working in a war zone.

Basics like food, fresh water, and first aid were still in low supply and high demand. Small buses continued to take people out of the capital and toward other cities, although much of the surrounding countryside was suffering from the same sort of damage, if on a smaller scale.

Dogged rescuers continued to report "finds," as people continued to be pulled alive from the debris. One welcome sight was a group of people carrying fresh vegetables into town from the surrounding hills. That food disappeared completely. People elsewhere reported bottled water being for sale, at sky-high prices. International organizations have been donating water bottles by the truckload in recent days.

Troops from the U.S., Canada, and other countries continued to patrol the streets of Port-au-Prince, providing order in what was increasingly a city losing its sense of order. Fears of looting grew with an decrease in police intervention.

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