Terrified by the possibility of a U.S. invasion or retaliation from supporters of the ruling army, Haitians flocked to bus stations throughout the capital Saturday to flee the city.
A woman carrying her year-old daughter dressed in a white Sunday dress was sprinting to catch an overcrowded bus that was pulling out. One man jumped onto the rear bumper with such force that he broke a tail light when the vehicle unexpectedly stopped.Frantic flight turned to tragedy for one family when a truck lost its brakes and careened onto the sidewalk of a bus stop, killing a woman waiting to head north to the mountain village of St. Michel de l'Attalaye.
Her three sons clutched each other's hands and wailed in grief after 60-year-old Mercianne Metor's body was taken away.
"The Americans caused this! The Americans told us to leave," cried Evans Metor, 35.
Genia Mireille-Alexandre, 34, sitting on an overstuffed bag of possessions breast-feeding the youngest of her seven children as she waited for a bus, said she has no radio and doesn't know what specific threat faces her country.
"I saw a lot of people leave, so I'm leaving, too," she said, adding that she hoped to stay with relatives in the southwestern city of Les Cayes.
A 34-year-old pregnant woman sat waiting with her husband and three children, her tattered dress bunched up around her thighs. "I'm afraid my children will get hurt," explained Mem Andre, also bound for Les Cayes.
Noel, 29, a typist and driver, stood for hours in the crowded parking area of an abandoned Shell station used as the bus station for the town of St. Marc.
"I've tried everything" to catch a bus north, said Noel, who wants to return to his village in the Artibonite Valley. With security agents around, he didn't want to elaborate on his reasons for leaving.
But many in the crowd were young men like him who would be particularly at risk if military-backed gunmen came through poor neighborhoods waging terror against suspected supporters of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.