Chaos reigned north of Haiti’s capital Friday as hospitals overflowed with people rushing to get help from a fast-moving cholera outbreak that has killed at least 138 people.
Eric Lotz, Haiti’s national director for the nonprofit Operation Blessing, described a “horrific” scene outside St. Nicolas hospital, the main medical facility in the city of St. Marc, as patients and their family members fought to get care.
“There was bedlam outside the gate,” said Lotz. “Inside (the hospital), every square inch is covered with people.”
Some people waited 24 hours or more to get help outside the hospital, many of them on stretchers, said Terry Snow, Haiti director for the nonprofit Youth With a Mission.
Snow said he tried to take one man with cholera to various clinics, only to end up at St. Nicolas hospital and be told that it was full. The man died soon thereafter in the back of his truck, he said.
“It’s very chaotic,” Snow said of the scene in St. Marc and more rural agricultural areas nearby. “People are trying to figure out what to do. People are lost.”
Sandrellie Seraphin, who works for Partners in Health and the Clinton Foundation, visited the hospital Wednesday.
“It’s terrible,” she told CNN by phone, describing the crowds of people trying to get help. “There’s a great fear among the people” about the disease.
In addition to at least 138 people who have died, 1,526 people have been sickened in the outbreak, said Imogen Wall, the U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman in Haiti.
This comes after recent heavy rains spurred the banks of the Artibonite River to overflow and flood the area. Dammed in 1956 to create Lac de Peligre, the Artibonite River is Haiti’s dominant drainage system, according to the U.S. Library of Congress. All the cholera cases have been reported in the Lower Artibonite region, north of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Snow said that “constant miscommunication and confusion” have hindered aid efforts, though he expressed hope things may improve Friday as more help comes in.