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In Haiti slum school, missionaries left with corpses
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 19 (AFP) Jan 19, 2010
Tucked away by a hillside slum, a school run by missionaries has been overlooked in the aid rush since the Haiti quake, with 100 children dead beneath the rubble and 60 people battling to survive.

The Little Sisters of Saint Therese of the Child of Jesus, described as a women's religious order, lies abandoned by the world since the 7.0-magnitude quake struck a week ago.

The oldest children were already out of school, so almost all escaped with their lives.

But the little ones -- about 150 aged between six and 15 -- fell victim when the concrete school collapsed as the Caribbean nation shook with the force of the powerful quake.

With their bare hands, the sisters dug out as many as they could and rescued about 100 children. But with few means and unable to make it down the hillside since the road had been reduced to rubble, they had no way to treat the injured.

They could only watch helplessly as 30 of the children they had so feverishly rescued died from their injuries.

"We put the dead and the living on the terrace over there. Their parents came to take the bodies by hand and transported the wounded on door frames" down the winding roads to the Carrefour slums, said Sister Gisele Chaperon.

Since then, no one has made their way up to the tiny religious order now with 60 people still alive, including some handicapped children.

No international aid teams to either search for any more survivors or unearth the dead, no medical relief and no food.

"Without equipment we can't reach the bodies. we have nothing. No food or water," said 65-year-old American missionary Barbara Wander.

And the looters have begun to roam past. "The pillaging began on the first day. At night, armed men come saying they have come to protect us, but we know they are thieves. We are very scared for our safety."

The sisters have called on the local authorities and police for help, but in vain. Even the church, ravaged by its losses, can do nothing.

"Government officials are busy with other things. We are well out of everything," said Sister Gisele.

In a reversal of their roles, some of the poor families from the slums have tried to help, bringing bananas or oranges to feed the survivors.

Normally it was the sisters who sought to bring succor to the slum-dwellers. They didn't just run a school for the children, but they cared for them, nursed them and above all fed the children.

"The children used to say, when school's out we don't eat. Now the survivors have no food," said Sister Gisele, who was also trapped for several hours in the rubble.

Now she is trying to look to the future, hoping at least for some tents so that classes can eventually resume.

But then the enormity of the tragedy overwhelmed her. "Every day is painful," she said sadly. "We've still not found Rosena. She spent 10 years with us. She wanted to learn to sew, and was taking cake-baking courses to help her mother.

"And we haven't found Cyrilla, she wanted to be a nurse."

In one corner, a circle of young handicapped children, pressed around one of the sisters. In the ruins lay textbooks and written tests.

Now the mother of Makendy, who was in the 7th grade and about 12 years old, will never know he only got a 3 out of 10 in his religious studies test.

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