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Girl rescued 15 days after Haiti quake

27 stycznia, 2010

Rescuers hauled a girl alive from the ruins of Haiti\'s capital 15 days after its devastating quake, in a rare moment of joy in a nation where survivors were Thursday still gasping for aid.

Severely dehydrated and so weak she could barely talk, 16-year-old Darlene Etienne managed a whispered \'thank you\' to her rescuers after what appears to be the longest ordeal of any survivor so far.

Stunned bystanders clapped and cheered with joy as the French rescue team pulled her out from under the debris of a house in Port-au-Prince.

"She just said \'thank you,\' she\'s very weak, which suggests that she\'s been there for 15 days," rescue team Commander Samuel Bernes told AFP.

"She was in a pocket surrounded by concrete, completely dehydrated."

Amazed rescuers spoke of a miracle after neighbours heard a faint voice in the rubble.

Colonel Michel Orcel, a doctor at the field hospital where she was treated, said the girl was happy and asking questions about her friends.

"She is 16 years old, she is alive and she has her whole life ahead of her. She was speaking, she said that she was happy," Orcel said.

International rescue teams have saved around 135 people buried alive when the January 12 7.0-magnitude quake flattened Port-au-Prince and several other towns in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The last was a 31-year-old man rescued Tuesday, although he was thought to have been entombed by a powerful aftershock around two days after the initial tremor.

Haitian President Rene Preval said "nearly 170,000" bodies had been counted since the quake, significantly higher than previous estimates of 150,000.

Preval suggested Haiti\'s legislative elections, due next month, would have to be postponed.

"I don\'t think the time is right to hold elections now given the conditions in which people are living," Preval told AFP.

A massive aid effort has swung into place to help the more than one million people left homeless by the disaster, but many Haitians say they have yet to receive vital supplies of food or water.

Near the destroyed presidential palace where crowds queued under a blazing sun, Immacula Cadet said she was hungry but was afraid of getting hurt in the long lines for food aid if fighting erupts over the handouts.

"I don\'t want to battle in the road to have a little bread," she told AFP. "We really have problems. We need all that (aid). We need food, we have no water."

US military and Haitian officials insist food aid is becoming increasingly available in areas outside the capital as coordination improves.

The US military, which has poured 20,000 soldiers into Haiti, said it had begun to hand out 14 million meals and aimed to supply half a million people with fresh water within a few days.

"It is the most complicated catastrophe we have ever been confronted" with, World Food Programme executive director Josette Sheeran told business leaders and politicians at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Energy biscuits and 200,000 family-sized tents top the wanted list, while Ann Veneman, executive director of the UN Children\'s Fund UNICEF, said another priority was to open centres for orphans to protect them from traffickers. Related article: Almost half of Haiti\'s injured may be children, says study.

Aid pledges continued Thursday with the central African nation of Cameroon announcing one million dollars, while a Dutch official linked to a nationwide collection drive said the campaign had netted more than 100 million euros.

Former US president Bill Clinton launched an initiative in Davos to bring private sector cash into Haiti\'s reconstruction, saying it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to lift the country out of grinding poverty.

"This is an opportunity to re-imagine the future," he said, citing figures from a Haiti investment conference held before the earthquake suggesting that 97 percent of participants "were surprised by the positive opportunities."

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