Devastation In Haiti


September 2010

Report by Peter Dirr

On January 12, 2010, a major earthquake struck Haiti, leveling many buildings in and around Port au Prince, the capitol city, killing over 300,000 people, and displacing an estimated 1.5 million people.  By the middle of September 2010, nine months after the earthquake, there was little evidence of systematic restoration in and around Port au Prince.  This is a visual report of living conditions in Port au Prince and its surrounding towns.








The earthquake disrupted government and government services.  The National Palace, roughly equivalent to our White House, is still not usable.  A middle wing was demolished by the earthquake.  One of the end wings sits at about a 45 degree angle.






The Ministry of Finance building is also unusable and will probably have to be demolished.  The same is true of the federal court building and many other structures that housed the government workforce.  Many government workers are working in tents.








Drive down almost any street in Port au Prince or its outlying towns and you see piles of rubble from demolished houses as well as remaining walls.  It looks like no one has taken responsibility for removing the rubble, let alone rebuilding the houses.







Broken buildings still stand as testimonies to the many lives lost and the hundreds of thousands of people still displaced by the earthquake.









Not only homes but businesses were destroyed by the earthquake.  Many people wait for the reconstruction to begin, hoping that with it will come new employment opportunities.







Every so often, you pass evidence that some are moving ahead to rebuild on their previous spots, but this is few and far between.








Hundreds of thousands of the displaced have moved into tent cities such as this.  Evidence that these might become permanent "cities" is that in some tent cities the government is reported to be planning to install sewer systems.







Some of the tent cities now occupy what used to be waterfront parks (ocean in background).









There are no amenities in the tent cities.  People have to carry in their own water.  Clusters of toilets are scattered throughout the cities.







The tents might look sturdy, but they are very vulnerable to the weather.  A sudden storm blew through one day when I was there (heavy rain and wind) and it shredded more than 3,000 tents.









Trash disposal is another problem.  If it is not piled up in the streets, it is brought to open lots where it is burned.








Trash heaps also serve as places for children and animals to forage for food and other treasures.


In spite of the devastation, life goes on.  There is bustle on some streets, and the always crowded tap-taps continue to bring people from one part of the region to the other. 




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