Haiti earthquake diary: A trip to the morgue

On my second night reporting for ABC-TV in Port-au-Prince, we head to the hospital to see how victims are faring. Attached to the building is the morgue, quickly overflowing.

Mary Knox Merrill/Staff
A coffin waits to be filled in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday.

Tonight we go to the morgue. We want to know what is happening to the bodies that have been collected. It’s a good question to ask and I’m happy to leave the unbearably loud noise out on the airport tarmac, where we're camping. But I am also not wanting to do this.

The adrenaline of getting here has evaporated. I’m feeling light-headed and heavy-hearted. We haven’t had any real food. I haven’t really had a good night’s sleep in several days.

The morgue is in the back of the Port-au-Prince General Hospital, along the same street where my former husband Jean Raymond’s house is. It’s a green-and-white complex of multiple buildings, some of which are still standing.

We drive up slowly. Patients lie along the side of the buildings, some on makeshift beds, others lying under tarps, others just lying on the ground.
We see another television crew as we park the car. 60 Minutes. They are interviewing the person we want to see, the hospital's medical director, Dr. Lassegue. So we wait, and as we stand there, the smell of death in the air, a large dump truck drives by.

During our interview with Dr. Lassegue, another truck drives by. One of our correspondent's asks if we can go into the morgue, but the doc says there isn’t much electricity so it isn’t functioning that well. The correspondent persists, and eventually we walk with the director down to the end of the pathway and around the corner.

There is another dump truck and a loader, shoveling what I soon figure out are bodies. Hundreds and hundreds of them. About a thousand a day have come in, the doc says. And thousands of thousands more have yet to be picked up.

I am glad it is dark. Wish it was even darker. Wish that I can’t hear the sounds of the truck, the sounds of the loader as it scrapes against the cement. Wish that I didn’t know what the smell of death smells like.

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