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Unable to save wife, Haitian quake survivor fears son will be lost too

By Arthur Brice, CNN
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Reunited, but only briefly
  • Joel Rathon said he dug for 25 hours to free his wife, but she died on the way to hospital
  • Her body now lies with hundreds of other victims in the parking lot of a full morgue
  • Rathon believes his son may be alive in the rubble and begs for digging tools to help him

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Joel Rathon had two missions Friday: bury his wife and save his son.

It looked like he would be able to accomplish only one.

His 3-year-old son, his mother-in-law and two other relatives remained trapped in the rubble of their basement home at 63 Avenue Christophe in central Port-au-Prince. Rathon said he heard his son's voice Friday morning, nearly three days after Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake collapsed his home, and was desperate to reach him.

"They shouldn't have to die this way," he said Friday afternoon, as he visited his wife's body at the Service de le Morgue Hueh.

He pleaded for help to get his relatives out of the rubble.

"I don't have tools to do so many things," he says.

It's a plea heard throughout Port-au-Prince this week. A day earlier, a man in another part of town had approached a CNN crew asking if they had a tractor or backhoe to dig out trapped people.

At the morgue, Rathon gave a friend 3,000 Haitian gourdes (about $75) to buy a casket for his wife. He apologized that he could not buy a better coffin.

Video: Dead buried in mass graves
  • Haiti
  • Earthquakes
  • Port-au-Prince

"I don't have enough money," he said. "All my money is in my business."

Rathon said he owned a printing and copy shop that employed six people. That is now gone.

He's afraid the rest of his family will be gone soon, too.

Rathon dug for 25 hours, he said, to get his wife out. He put her in his silver Toyota compact and raced to save her life.

"I went to the hospital but she died in my car 15 minutes later," he said.

Friday afternoon she lay in the morgue parking lot among at least another 300 bodies. The morgue is full and bodies are laid on the ground in no particular pattern, swollen and stiffened and holding the pose in which they died.

It is a horrendous scene made all the more horrible by the smell and the sorrow of family members who come to look for loved ones.

Two men in a homemade wooden cart dropped off a body while Rathon spoke with reporters.

Another 10 or 12 bodies were piled on the sidewalk outside the hospital wall around the corner from the morgue.

Rathon returned to his house to show CNN where he heard the voice of his young son, Jotcharlls, just hours earlier. He says he's not angry or frustrated that he can't get help to dig them out. Those emotions would not solve anything.

But his words and the tone of his voice show he can't quite keep that resolve.

"I live in my car," he says with some agitation. "I lost my business. I lost my family. I lost everything."

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