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5.9-magnitude aftershock terrifies Haitians

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - "Jesus!" they cried as rubble tumbled and dust rose anew from government buildings. From the teeming plaza near the collapsed presidential palace to a hillside tent city, parents gathered up children and ran as the strongest tremor since Haiti's cataclysmic Jan. 12 earthquake struck pre-dawn Wednesday.

Up in the hills of the nation's capital, where U.S. troops were helping thousands of homeless, people bolted screaming from their tents.

Jajoute Ricardo, 24, came running from his house, fearing its collapse after the 5.9-magnitude aftershock at 6:03 a.m., centered 35 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. "Nobody will go to their house now," he said, as he sought a tent of his own. "It is chaos, for real."

A slow vibration intensified into side-to-side shaking that lasted about eight seconds - compared with last week's far stronger initial quake that seemed to go on for 30 seconds.

Throngs again sought out small, ramshackle buses to take them away from the city. On Port-au-Prince's beaches, more than 20,000 people looked for boats to carry them down the coast, the local Signal FM radio reported.

But the desperation may actually be deeper outside the capital, closer to last week's quake epicenter. "We're waiting for food, for water, for anything," Emmanuel Doris-Cherie, 32, said in Leogane, 25 miles southwest. Homeless in Leogane lived under sheets draped across tree branches, and the damaged hospital "lacks everything," Red Cross surgeon Hassan Nasreddine said.

Hundreds of Canadian soldiers and sailors were deploying to that town and to Jacmel on the south coast to support relief efforts. The Haitian government sent a plane and an overland team to assess needs in Petit-Goave, a seaside town farther west that was the epicenter of yesterday's aftershock.

The death toll from last week's quake was estimated at 200,000, according to Haitian government figures relayed by the European Commission, with 80,000 bodies already buried in mass graves. UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said at UN headquarters in New York that it's believed that 3 million people are affected, with 2 million of those needing food for at least six months.

Many badly injured Haitians still await lifesaving surgery. "It is like working in a war situation," said Rosa Crestani of Doctors Without Borders at the Choscal Hospital. "We don't have any morphine to manage pain for our patients."

Damaged hospitals and emergency medical centers set up in the capital needed surgeons, fuel for generators, oxygen and countless other kinds of medical supplies, aid groups said. Dr. Evan Lyon, of U.S.-based Partners in Health, messaged from the central University Hospital that the facility was within 24 hours of running out of key supplies.

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