World

More survivors under collapsed Haiti school unlikely: rescuers

Search crews in Haiti say it is unlikely they will find any more survivors amid the rubble of a collapsed school on the outskirts of capital Port-au-Prince, as their rescue efforts on Monday increasingly resembled a recovery mission.

94 dead, 150 wounded in Friday tragedy

Rescue workers carry a body found in the rubble on Monday, three days after College La Promesse collapsed in Petionville, Haiti. ((Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press) )
Search crews in Haiti say it is unlikely they will find any more survivors amid the rubble of a collapsed school on the outskirts of capital Port-au-Prince, as their rescue efforts on Monday increasingly resembled a recovery mission.

Teams of rescuers from the United States, France and Haiti used sonar, cameras and dogs in an effort to find more victims three days after the concrete building suddenly collapsed during a children's party, killing at least 94 students and adults and severely injuring 150 more.

On Monday, they pulled out several bodies caked in dust from the concrete rubble where College La Promesse in Petionville once stood.

There have been no indications of survivors since four children were pulled from the wreckage Saturday morning, said Daniel Vigee, head of a Martinique-based French rescue team.

The chance of more survivors was remote, said U.S. firefighter Michael Istvan, who is in charge of a rescue team at the scene. But he added the death toll won't likely go much higher.

Rescuers unsuccessfully searched areas where neighbours or friends reportedly heard voices or received phone calls. Finally, before dawn Monday, they opened up new areas to search by tearing down a two-storey high concrete slab that had been hanging precariously since the collapse.

While Istvan's team had warned that bringing down the slab could endanger both rescuers and potential survivors still trapped under the rubble, Haitian authorities removed the structure nonetheless with handheld power tools.

Last survivors found on Saturday

Hopes of finding more survivors had been steadily fading since four children, still alive, were pulled from the wreckage Saturday morning.

"Rescue workers and experts are making the last check to be certain there is nobody alive under the debris," Nadia Lochard, civil protection director for Haiti's west department, said Sunday.

"Then we'll change phase.... We'll start using heavier means to remove the debris and blocks of concrete. We will recover all the bodies and destroy the building," Lochard said.

Neighbours said they have long complained that the three-story school concrete block building was unsafe, and people living nearby have been trying to sell their homes since part of it collapsed eight years ago.

"You can see that some sections just have one iron [reinforcing] bar. That's not enough to hold it," said 55-year-old Notez Pierre-Louis, whose children used to attend the school.

"I said all the time, one day this is going to fall on my house."

Fortin Augustin, the preacher who owns and built the school, was taken into custody and charged with involuntary manslaughter late Saturday.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is recovering from four tropical storms and hurricanes that killed more than 800 people and destroyed 60 per cent of its crops in August and September.

With files from the Associated Press, Reuters

now