PORT-AU-PRINCE — Every five minutes, a vehicle pulls up to the gates of Port-au-Prince's cemetery, delivering another corpse to a mass grave dug by authorities trying to clear the broken city's streets of the dead.
"We have lost any dignity in death," said Mezen Dieu Justi, an old man barely able to contain his nausea and tears before the grim spectacle.
The massive earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday has produced a steady stream of bodies, with estimates of the death toll well into the tens of thousands.
Many families confronted with their final glimpse of a loved one simply lost control.
"It's my father, my dear father," screamed one young woman, who fainted at the sight of the mass grave filled with human bodies.
One woman, as though possessed, lowered herself into the grave saying she felt more comfortable among the dead. Bystanders eventually forced her back out again.
"We have lost our senses. Death has driven us insane," said one Haitian, whose relative's body had been transported to the grave for burial.
"For three days my sister was dead in her house. Finally we brought her here. We have lost hope of giving her a dignified burial, a coffin, the blessing of a priest," sobbed Florence, 40, a teacher.
Across Port-au-Prince, the dead litter the streets, stripped of human dignity, decomposing and covered in flies.
The efforts of recently-arrived foreign aid workers seem almost inconsequential by comparison with the scale of the devastation wrought by the quake.
Their work is both a race against time to save people who may still be alive under the rubble strewn across the city and also an effort to transport overwhelming numbers of corpses to the nearest mass grave.
Morgue officials said they no longer have the means to move the bodies, forcing aid workers to transport scores of unidentified and dust-covered cadavers.
Families waited patiently as rescue teams dug through the rubble, waiting to see if they could recognize a loved one.
"The truth is that we don't know what will be done with the dead," said Joseph Tihaly, a Haitian volunteer coordinating the delivery and identification of corpses abandoned at the general hospital's morgue.
The young student said numerous families had come seeking their relatives, but the majority of the bodies remained unclaimed and unidentified.
In one corner of the morgue, a Haitian man finished building a makeshift wooden coffin to hold his brother's body.
"I will try to take him to our village, to bury him there," he said.
At least two mass graves have been dug in the city to try to deal with the catastrophe. Haiti Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said he believed some 15,000 people had already been interred across the stricken capital.
But the sheer number of dead has simply overwhelmed all efforts, said Tihaly.
"Realistically, we don't know when these bodies will be taken, and we don't know by whom. It's chaos and a breeding ground for infection," he said.
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