Six months after quake, Haiti still suffers

RUBBLE

July 12, 2010|By Ivan Watson, CNN
Students help to clear the rubble of the Anglican Cathedrale Episcopale Sainte Trinite in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday.

On January 12, the earth shook here. More than 220,000 people were killed. More than 300,000 people were injured. The city and large stretches of surrounding countryside were devastated.

Six months later, not much appears to have changed. It still looks like a bomb just dropped on this city.

The government has barely begun the cleanup process. Roads in the center of the city are still blocked by debris. And some experts predict that it could take up to 20 years to remove all of it.

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"We have moved 250,000 cubic meters of rubble, which sounds like a lot, until you realize there's 20 million cubic meters of rubble here," said Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the United Nations office of humanitarian affairs in Haiti.

The U.N. estimates 1.5 million people currently live in camps. That means roughly one in nine Haitians are homeless.

And Wall says the situation is so difficult that six months from now, it may still look the same.

"Because of the numbers that we are coping with here and what we know about what it takes to do long-term reconstruction well... it will take time to get 1.5 million people back into the kind of long-term living arrangements that they want and need," she said.

Most Haitians are left fending for themselves.

In one impoverished hilltop slum, where people live side-by-side with the rubble of their neighbors' homes, locals made a terrible discovery Saturday: body parts of a pregnant woman in her 20s who had gone missing after the earthquake.

"Horrible. It's sad," neighbor Pierre Fouriol said.

It's a tragic scene that is still unfolding all over the city.

The Haitian government says it cannot tackle debris clean-up or the resettlement of homeless right now, because it faces more immediate threats.

"The real priority of the government is to protect the population from the next hurricane season, and most of our effort right now is going right now in that direction," Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said.

But many Haitians are taking matters into their own hands.

Jean-Jacques Jerome is hammering pieces of wood together, building a new house to replace the one that was destroyed in the earthquake.

"I couldn't afford new construction material," he says, "so I scavenged parts from the street, from junk piles and from rubble."

From the rubble of a devastated city, a new generation of makeshift housing is going up, which will likely be even more vulnerable to the floods and killer storms that plague Haiti.

Meanwhile, the presidential palace remains in ruins.

Even the most powerful people in the country have barely begun picking up the pieces.

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