PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The dead overwhelmed the General Hospital morgue, and the injured outnumbered doctors and nurses Thursday as rescuers from across the globe struggled to reach the shattered island and distribute much-needed food, water and medical supplies.
At the morgue, police, civilians and private contractors clearing rubble were forced to leave corpses in piles outside the facility, where survivors searched among the dead for their loved ones.
The Haitian Red Cross estimates the number of deaths at 45,000 to 50,000, and there appear to be few places to store or bury the bodies.
The General Hospital morgue has no working generator, and Haitians have been recovering bodies and putting them in the back of pickups or piling them on sidewalks.
Since late Wednesday, about 60 dump trucks have circulated the city collecting the dead and taking them to the landfill.
Thursday, the mayor of Port-au-Prince said he wanted to bury more than 100 bodies in the cemetery but he struggled to find equipment to allow him to dig a mass grave big enough.
President René Préval estimated that 7,000 bodies were removed from the streets of the capital.
Guy LaRoche, manager of General Hospital, ran out of space to store the dead.
"We have about 2,000 dead bodies so far — on the floor outside," LaRoche said. "We don't have the authorization from the government to take the bodies out of here. We are the hospital — everyone brings the bodies here. The morgue is full."
Canadian medical consultant Yuri Zelenski said he was working with local authorities to find a solution to the morgue's crowding.
"I have never been to anything like this," Zelenski said as he looked on in disgust. "I am shocked."
The injured also went to the hospital, where they pitched makeshift tents outside and waited. Many were wrapped in bloodied bandages and bound in cardboard splints.
LaRoche said the hospital was understaffed and running out of water.
"Everything is going wrong," he said. "We have nothing. The problem is the employees. I normally have about 150 doctors. Today, I do not have 20. They have families, too."
At Canape Vert hospital, women and babies wailed in pain while a single doctor tended to them.
"My wife! My wife!" a man shouted to anyone who walked past.
He pointed to his wife, Mirlaine Michel, who had lost a foot.
Meanwhile, many on the island waited for help to arrive from the many nations that have pledged aid but found it difficult to reach those who need it most.
The Associated Press reported rescue crews encountering bottlenecks at Port-au-Prince's main airport, Toussaint L'Ouverture, which was short on jet fuel and ramp space and operating without a control tower.
U.S. pledges $100 million
President Barack Obama, who pledged $100 million in aid to Haiti, said U.S. troops were on their way.
But aid has been slowed by blocked roads and damage to the airport and seaport. The United Nations, which traditionally coordinates relief efforts, has been devastated by the quake, adding to the difficulty of distributing international aid.
The headquarters of the U.N. Haiti mission collapsed, killing at least three dozen workers. About 200 are reported missing, including the mission chief.
Working overnight, a U.S. team pulled a man from the wreckage of the U.N. building Thursday morning.
After a 5½-hour operation, the man emerged from the ruins of the six-story building, held up a fist in salute and climbed down a ladder to embrace rescuers and embassy workers.
Complicating the rescue efforts Thursday was a shutdown of the Port-au-Prince airport to all but military flights, freezing efforts by relief agencies to get supplies into Haiti by private cargo planes.
An Amerijet cargo plane that left Miami for Port-au-Prince was forced to land in the Dominican Republic after getting word midflight that it would not be able to land in Haiti.
The city's principal seaport also is thought to be too damaged to accept cargo ships. A Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based shipper said the cargo cranes had tumbled into the water.
The looting of shops added to concerns. The Brazilian military warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting by the desperate population.
At the Montana — a 140-room hotel popular with U.N. personnel, diplomats and the Haitian elite — workers used heavy machinery and dogs to comb the rubble.
There were thought to be about 50 people beneath the hotel, and at least four had been able to communicate by knocking on the concrete.
"Go help other people," said one voice beneath the rubble. "There's no way you can help me."
With aftershocks still rocking the city, many Haitians slept outside Wednesday night. A dozen girls slept sitting up, backs against a car.
At the Kinam Hotel, where guests were paying more than $150 a night, many opted to sleep on the grass rather than in their rooms.
Across the street in St. Pierre's Plaza, hundreds, possibly thousands, camped out, singing hymns overnight.
"God, you are the one who gave me life," they sang. "Why are we suffering?"
The Red Cross has estimated that at least 3 million Haitians were affected by the powerful earthquake.
Miami Herald staff writers Jacqueline Charles, Lesley Clark, Frances Robles and Trenton Daniel contributed to this report