Search for survivors continues after Haiti earthquake; battered country braces for Grace

LES CAYES, Haiti — Rescuers and scrap metal scavengers dug into the floors of a collapsed hotel Monday in this quake-ravaged coastal town, where 15 bodies had already been extracted. Jean Moise Fortunè, whose brother, the hotel owner, was killed in the quake, believed there were two or three people trapped in the rubble.

But based on the size of voids that workers cautiously peered into, perhaps a foot in depth, finding survivors appeared unlikely.

While residents carted away twisted heaps of scrap metal to earn some money, Dukens Sylvain was a trying to detect signs of life.

“Those people are risking their lives for a bit of scrap,” the 37-year-old said of locals burrowing into the huge rubble pile. “I’m just worried about people’s lives.”

At a soccer pitch in Les Cayes, where families who had lost their homes tried to erect a bit of shade with sheets and sticks, people gathered for food being distributed off a truck.

The country’s Civil Protection Agency said 1,297 dead from the magnitude 7.2 earthquake had been counted by Sunday, a day after the temblor turned thousands of structures into rubble and set off frantic rescue efforts ahead of a potential deluge from an approaching tropical storm.

Saturday’s earthquake also left at least 5,700 people injured, with thousands more displaced from destroyed or damaged homes. After sundown Sunday, Les Cayes was darkened by intermittent blackouts, and many people slept outside, clutching small transistor radios tuned to news, terrified of the continuing aftershocks.