90 Students Die in School Collapse in Haiti

November 14, 2008

PORT-AU-PRINCE – The death toll  from last week’s collapse of a school inPetionville, a city on the eastern outskirts  of the Haitian capital, has risen to at least 90, with 164 other people injured, officials said.

Tensions are rising as increasingly desperate relatives of the so-far-unaccounted- for victims demand that authorities speed up the search for the injured and dead.

Legislator Steven Benoit, who represents Petionville, told reporters that emergency personnel had recovered at least 90 bodies, and he said that there was little chance of finding more survivors three days after the school’s collapse.

However, he said that the emergency organizations, nevertheless, will continue the search for survivors.

The tragedy occurred the morning of Nov. 7, when many students were in their classrooms and others were on the recess patio of the College La Promesse, local media reported, adding that about 700 students attended the school.

Authorities are continuing to have difficulties keeping back the hundreds of people who came to the site to see the damage, and try to dig through the rubble.

A group of people on Sunday ignored the authorities and entered the school’s ruins to look for their children, which caused great tension at the site, where huge numbers of people of all ages have come to watch the drama or wait for word of their loved ones.

Relatives of the school’s students shouted angrily at authorities demanding that they speed up the search, but the authorities responded that they must be cautious in doing so because the school was built on very fragile terrain, and it would endanger the rescue workers to have people combing through the ruins in a “disorganized” manner.

Security Minister Luc Euchere Joseph came on Sunday to the accident site to direct part of the rescue operations with the support of local police and United Nations personnel.

Haitian authorities have not been able to determine the precise number of people – the vast majority of them, no doubt, young students – who were inside the school when it collapsed, but experts on the scene are working under the hypothesis that apparently the structure fell in because of a landslide.

College La Promesse principal and evangelical pastor Augustin Fortin has been under arrest since Nov. 7.

 

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