A paediatric nurse at an orphanage near the epicentre of the Haiti earthquake has told how she clung to babies and shielded them as the debris fell around them.Susan Westwood was working in intensive care at the God's Littlest Angels home just outside the capital, Port au Prince, when the 7.0-magnitude quake, struck the impoverished Caribbean island on Tuesday afternoon. Tens of thousands are feared dead and up to three million affected by Haiti's worst quake in two centuries. Too afraid to go back inside buildings, last night a hundreds of thousands of Haitians slept among the dead and injured on the streets as aid agencies scrambled to start a global rescue effort.
Susan Westwood was looking after a nine-month-old baby girl when the earthquake hit. “The floor started shaking violently and the whole building shook from side to side,” she told the BBC website. “It lasted about 45 seconds. After that, there was a constant shuddering. The babies were really frightened and started to cry. Other staff and carers were screaming, they were so terrified. It was very upsetting.
“I couldn't stand upright so I dropped to my knees. I was able to keep hold of the baby girl and I grabbed hold of another baby. Objects were falling from shelves, there was debris crashing all around. I clung on to the babies and shielded them as best I could. Then came the aftershocks. It was impossible to even move.“After a while we managed to take all the children out onto the driveway. We spent the whole night outside. It was chilly but we were OK. Some children are dehydrated now though because we couldn't get any medical supplies out of the building.”
Luckily the God's Littlest Angels building which is home to 85 under-two year olds, survived the disaster as did its sister orphanage nearby which looks after 65 two to 11 year-olds. All these children are incredibly vulnerable. Many are not orphans but there because their families can't afford to look after them. Haiti is very, very poor. Many of them are malnourished when they arrive and many are premature babies.“I can't believe there's no damage and that we are all safe,” said Susan. “When I look around the area and see that other buildings have just crumbled to the ground, I know that soon we will have lots more babies and young children to care for.“
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children