Haiti Update Friday night (posted Saturday afternoon)
- Listening to Boukman Eksperyans, "Kalfou Danjere."
The earthquake happened on Erzulie Dantor's day. Its epicenter was six miles
west of Carrefour, the Crossroads.
I don't have a TV. Watching disaster porn on TV is my definition of
powerless. I've been mostly engaging via text, still photo, and widgets. But
tonight, over at a friend's, I saw the TV coverage for the first time. It
was, I must admit, riveting. The images of bodies being pushed into mass
graves as we are told that then dirt will be pushed on top of them, then
more bodies, then more dirt, then more bodies. I was in Sri Lanka for the
tsunami, said the reporter. But there they had at least a system for
identifying the bodies, photographing the corpses before they covered them
Not in Haiti. Just push 'em into a grave, unidentified, and let their
This is neocolonial terrorism imploded.
On a TV clip I heard for the first time a frustratingly small bite of the
sound I've been reading about since literally the first tweet: the people
singing in the street.
A street full of people marching and singing. They've been doing that since
Tuesday night. The anchors, of course, haven't got a clue. CNN's wraparound
carefully identified them as "Catholic." Yeah, right. There must be more
footage of this. It could not seem more significant right now:
Music was the first responder.
Music. This is at the center of why music matters. If you can find footage
of it, let me know. This is the music I want to hear.
* * *
On the cover of my book "The World That Made New Orleans," in an oval, is a
picture of a woman holding a candle.
I took that picture at a vodou ceremony in New Jersey. I figured, if you had
had a camera and film and processing chemicals in 1809 in New Orleans, you
could have taken this picture.
Let me tell you about that woman who for a fraction of a second of her life
became an image in my camera. She lives in New York. During fifteen years of
struggle in the city she's been building a house in Port-au-Prince with
every nickel she could save. She hadn't finished it yet. But it's finished
now. It's gone. It's dust. Her fifteen years of sacrifice is gone. I tell
this story not because it's about her, and guaranteed she doesn't want your
pity, but to point up that this is how much the Haitian community in this
country has invested. This community, whose existence here is often so
precarious on a day-to-day working-at-Wendy's basis, has suffered in many
cases the loss not only of family members, but of years of work and
investment in their home country. Now they are being called on to do
The historic town of Jacmel was perhaps worse hit than P-au-P. Even solidly
built houses collapsed, including old ones. It seems obscene to think about
anything but the physical human suffering right now, but if we look at what
is lost besides human life in Jacmel, we realize: an architectural legacy.
Historic houses crumbled. Saint-Domingue was the home of shotgun houses, no?
I'd like to find someone who knows the architecture of Jacmel better than I
to comment on what has been lost.
* * *
The racist lies take more or less outrageous forms. Forget Pat Robertson,
who doesn't deserve the free publicity, except to note that he does speak
for a sizable group of Americans: the Stupid Racist Motherfuckers. Of whom
there are majorities in several states. Be assured that they're wailing
against witchcraft right now, on radio stations you and I don't listen to,
broadcasting all across small-town and rural America. But then we have the
only slightly less racist lies of the major media -- maybe not so much the
on-the-ground reporters, as the guys in the edit room who frame it like, in
the infamous words of the New York Times on Wednesday, Haiti's problems are
caused in part by its "dire poverty, political infighting and proclivity for
insurrection." Slavery, a brutal colonialism, debt peonage, pariah status
and embargo, the treachery of its own tiny elite, foreign invasion, and
foreign-sponsored coups against its elected president had nothing to do with
However, the single most offensive article I have seen so far has been
committed by the New York Times's pink-shirt-and-purple-tie megadweeb
neocon David Brooks. Against my better judgment to ignore this kind
of garbage, I will append it at the bottom of this digest, but warning: have
a vomit bucket handy.
I think we need a national teach-in on Haitian history.
* * *
Jean-Bertrand Aristide is in South Africa, still not allowed the right of
return. As far as I can tell, the UN "peacekeeping" force are in part there
to keep Artistide from being able to return to the presidency to which he
was twice overwhelmingly elected and from which he was twice deposed with
United States support. UN troops made open war on Citï¿½ Soleil, a base of
Aristide's support which is, yes, also full of drug dealers because it is a
desperately poor neighborhood that does not offer employment to its youth.
Aristide, whose base of urban poor has been and is being devastated as I
type, can't come back now without his very presence shining a light on this
fundamental problem: Haiti has had little help from other states, but a
great deal of interference.
The UN has maintained its costly presence there on a purely policial mission
without investing in Haiti's infrastructure. The UN didn't build a network
of roads, set up a functional health care or educational system, get running
water into poor people's houses, or offer jobs. They sent seven thousand
soldiers and two thousand police, to make sure the people in the hood didn't
cause too much trouble while a powerless government presided in name over a
state the essential functions of which had been privatized to foreigners (in
acronymspeak: NGO's.) Meanwhile, many of the doctors in Haiti in recent
years have come from Cuba, and Cuba, which sent in 30 doctors immediately,
already has a functioning medical infrastructure in place in Haiti. In this
disaster right now, the Cubans are performing with valor, as they always do,
but don't expect to read about that in US newspapers.
* * *
Now comes what Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism. Perhaps the greatest
challenge will be to monitor what is sure to become a giant honeypot for
contractors. Haitians' houses are going to have to be rebuilt. Maybe this
time they could connect them to running water? How about building a real
electrical grid and internet backbone?
The #1 demand, based on the lesson of New Orleans: Haiti must be rebuilt,
and connected to a real infrastructural grid, by decently compensated
Haitian labor with financial help from outside. Haitians want to rebuild
their country, and we should give them everything they need. Haiti must not
go through a pantomime of rebuilding in a corporate invasion by politically
connected looters using imported labor.
Fat chance. President Obama has brought back George W. Bush from his gig
in Reno with the Safari Club International Annual Hunterï¿½s Convention to
"come together" with Bill Clinton "to lead the nationï¿½s humanitarian and
relief efforts to Haiti."
If anyone should be disqualified from handling sharp objects in the presence
of this disaster, it is the man who watched New Orleans drown and kidnapped
Haiti's elected president. Together with Bill Clinton, the two form a team
that, based on past performance, represents the consolidation of the
Sweatshop Agenda for Haiti's future.
* * *
I've been getting queries about whom to donate to. Partners in Health keeps
coming to the top of everyone's list. Here's a letter from them:
Over the past 18 hours, Partners In Health staff in Boston and Haiti have
been working to collect as much information as possible about the conditions
on the ground, the relief efforts taking shape, and all relevant logistics
issues in order to respond efficiently and effectively to the most urgent
needs in the field. At the moment, PIH's Chief Medical Officer is on her way
to Haiti, where she will meet with Zanmi Lasante leadership and head
physicians, who are already working to ensure PIH's coordinated relief
efforts leveraging the skills of more than 120 doctors and nearly 500 nurses
and nursing assistants who work at Zanmi Lasante's sites.
We have already begun to implement a two-part strategy to address the
immediate need for emergency medical care in Port-au-Prince. First, we are
organizing the logistics to get the medical staff and supplies needed for
setting up field hospital sites in Port-au-Prince where we can triage
patients, provide emergency care, and send those who need surgery or more
complex treatment to our functioning hospitals and surgical facilities.
To do this, we are creating a supply chain through the Dominican Republic.
Second, we are ensuring that our facilities in the Central Plateau are ready
to serve the flow of patients from Port-au-Prince. Operating and procedure
rooms are staffed, supplied, and equipped for surgeries and we have
converted a church in Cange into a large triage area. Already our sites in
Cange and Hinche are reporting a steady flow of people coming with medical
needs from the capital city. In the days that come we will need to make sure
our pharmacies and supplies stay stocked and our staff continue to be able
Currently, our greatest need is financial support. Haiti is facing a crisis
worse than it has seen in years, and it is a country that has faced years of
crisis, both natural disaster and otherwise. The country is in need of
millions of dollars right now to meet the needs of the communities hardest
hit by the earthquake. Our facilities are strategically placed just two
hours outside of Port-au-Prince and will inevitably absorb the flow of
patients out of the city. In addition, we need cash on-hand to quickly
procure emergency medical supplies, basic living necessities, as well as
transportation and logistics support for the tens of thousands of people
that will be seeking care at mobile field hospitals in the capital city. Any
and all support that will help us respond to the immediate needs and
continue our mission of strengthening the public health system in Haiti is
greatly appreciated. Help us stand up for Haiti now.
DONATE NOW TO HELP OUR EARTHQUAKE RELIEF EFFORTS
If you are not in a position to make a financial contribution, you can help
us raise awareness of the earthquake tragedy. Please alert your friends to
the situation and direct them to www.pih.org for updates and ways to help.
Share this important update with your friends.
Thank you for your solidarity during this crisis,
* * *
The indispensible CounterPunch has assembled their longtime contributor
Richard Morse's tweets into a gigantic poem of sorts. I think Richard Morse
should receive the Nobel Prize in Tweeterature.
meanwhile, here are some of his more recent tweets, as of 12:50 a.m. EST
a.. when the sky is filled with planes and copters,it reminds me of the 2
invasions we had.it's different now.such suffering.ppl buried alive.. about
3 hours ago from web
a.. Is this a one week story?Is this a 10 day story? is this a one month
story?Where r 2 million ppl going to go? Nothing for them in PauP? about 3
hours ago from web
a.. Back to the Earthquake...people are without money or a way to make
money..no homes,no jobs,no school,no government,no churches,.now what???
about 3 hours ago from web
a.. No one voted in last years Haitian election..NO ONE!!..then they had a
runoff and made up voting tallies..maybe we should turn a new page... about
3 hours ago from web
a.. I curious to see whether Washington is going to reconsider pre
Earthquake allies about 3 hours ago from web
a.. I need a more powerful generator..I need a more powerful internet
service..trying to provide service for many many journalists about 3 hours
ago from web
a.. Talked to a man who was here to release political prisoners.His job has
been attended to.That's how a spiritual person might see it. about 3 hours
ago from web
a.. Cite Soleil:Subway 17/19 Sous Wharf area is said to have survived. Some
one from the Cite Soleil came to see me.TiHaiti/Cite Limye hit hard about 3
hours ago from web
a.. I spoke to my receptionist.She has yet to come to work.She said she
couldn't get to PauP because 2 many bodies and 2 much stress. about 3 hours
ago from web
a.. Right now we have to work together to get through this mess..but what do
we do tomorrow? Where do we take it.Where do we take the country? about 3
hours ago from web
a.. Will Haiti start anew? That's the question of the day? What's the
direction? Same direction as last year?No one seemed to like that path about
3 hours ago from web
a.. had a 2 chat with a priest today.St Gerard.Down.Sacred
Heart.Down.Cathedral.Down.St Anne.Down.I askedHow bout your church? he said
we're ok. about 3 hours ago from web
a.. Taxation Building?Down.UNHeadquarters?Down.I don't want to start getting
philosophical but Haitians don't buy the "coincidence" angle about 4 hours
ago from web
a.. People are trying to justify why so many government buildings were
downed.Justice?Palace?Down.Parliament?Down.Justice Building?Down. about 4
hours ago from web
a.. People don't talk about the bodies,they talk about the decomposing
bodies.Mass graves?Should we get philosophical? People r talking Justice
about 4 hours ago from web
a.. One of my staff came to work crying. Shots near the old airport on
Delmas.Different Cite Soleil areas hard hit:TiHaiti/2emCite/Cite Limye about
4 hours ago from web
a.. Been trying to get the internet back on line.Lines of journalists.still
feel occasional tremor.One of my kitchen staff is'nt accounted for. about 4
hours ago from web
a.. One firetruck is doing water distribution on ChampMars.Bodies are being
burned.Dominicans are making a presence about 15 hours ago from web
a.. There was a tremor this morning around 4AM..it didn't wake me up but
some folks who had been inside came to join us sleeping in the driveway
about 15 hours ago from web
a.. The school behind St Gerard still has people buried as does
everywhere.The dead bodies are becoming a greater and greater concern about
15 hours ago from web
a.. what to do, what to do, what to do with all these bodies that are
starting to decompose.people are starting to wear masks about 15 hours ago
a.. My batteries died late last night.Found a technician,Lunise found a
generator.we're charging as I write about 15 hours ago from web
* * *
UPDATE 1-US takes control of Haiti airport to speed aid
Fri Jan 15, 2010 11:45pm EST
* Haiti signs memorandum with U.S. govt
Stocks | Global Markets
* Teams in place to prioritize relief, flights
* U.S. says no fuel at airport, some flights diverted
(updates with handover agreement, details on airport plan)
By Andrew Quinn and John Crawley
WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Haiti gave the United States control of its
main airport on Friday to bring order in the skies to aid flights from
around the world and speed relief to the quake-traumatized Caribbean nation,
the Obama administration said.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that Haitian
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive signed a memorandum of understanding
formally transferring operations at Toussaint L'Ouverture International
Airport in Port-au-Prince.
"Obviously we will assume this responsibility as long as it's appropriate
and to the point where the Haitian government is able and ready to resume
that capability," Crowley said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to visit Haiti on Saturday.
The modest airport became a bottleneck almost immediately after Tuesday's
devastation as the world rushed help to the impoverished nation. Regional
authorities believe as many as 200,000 people were killed in the quake.
Waves of military and civilian planes loaded with food and water, medicine,
and rescue crews poured into the small Haitian air space but many flights
circled for hours before landing or were diverted.
While a 9,000-foot runway can handle the biggest jetliners arriving "heavy"
with cargo and the tarmac escaped serious damage, the Port-au-Prince airport
was compromised by a severely damaged control tower and limited facilities
for dealing with the relief effort.
The U.S. Air Force landed on Wednesday and immediately worked with Haitian
authorities and a team from the Federal Aviation Administration to restore
navigation and communications capabilities. They also sorted planes on the
ground and began to organize arrivals.
But Haitian air space remained off limits through Friday to many flights
approaching from overseas with little notice. Some planes bound for Haiti
were diverted to the Dominican Republic and airports in Florida, the FAA
Aviation authorities were concerned that long approach delays could
jeopardize onboard fuel supplies. Further complicating matters, the
Port-au-Prince airport ran out of fuel, meaning any planes that landed would
not be able to refuel for departure.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States, and countries including
Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, Russia, Japan, and Britain managed
to fly in rescue and logistics personnel and supplies. While some aid was
getting in, the White House hoped improved logistics would streamline and
accelerate the effort.
On Friday night, a ban was lifted on most flights heading for saturated
Haitian air space. It was replaced by a two-tier approach for managing
traffic that was worked out by international aviation authorities and
Working with Haitian authorities, a team of U.S. military and civilian
aviation experts began prioritizing arriving flights based on what was
needed most on the ground.
A second team based at a U.S. military facility in Florida lined up airborne
flights for arrival. Pilots are required to file a flight plan before
departure and obtain a landing time. The window is open for 40 minutes - 20
minutes before scheduled arrival and 20 minutes after, an FAA advisory said.
Commercial flights have been banned since Tuesday. U.S. carriers serving
Haiti include American Airlines and Spirit Airlines. American had been
scheduled to fly in relief supplies.
(Reporting by Andrew Quinn and John Crawley; Editing by Peter Cooney and
* * *
Haitians struggle to find the dead and keep survivors alive after
By Manuel Roig-Franzia, Mary Beth Sheridan and Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 15, 2010; A01
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- Desperate Haitians clawed at the rubble of their
ruined capital for a second day Thursday, retrieving their dead and rescuing
the living, as an international armada of ships and aircraft struggled to
provide food, water, medicine and shelter.
Forty-eight hours after much of the impoverished Caribbean nation was
devastated by an earthquake, it was mainly the people of this shattered
city, working with bare hands and simple tools, who pulled at slabs of
concrete and blocks of debris to get at those still trapped.
The dead and injured were pushed through the streets in wheelbarrows. At the
overwhelmed central hospital, anguished patients lay in a weedy parking lot
on gurneys fashioned from wooden doors. Calls for help went unanswered, and
no doctors were in sight.
Even as a 90,000-ton American nuclear aircraft carrier was expected Friday,
and transport planes arrived from as far away as China and Belgium, the
first shipments of aid were just starting to reach the stunned nation.
There were scant signs of help from the Haitian government, itself scattered
by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake Tuesday evening. The streets were filled
with beleaguered residents milling about, left with no jobs, no instructions
on what to do, and no place to buy food or to take the injured. Many said
they felt totally alone and saw no evidence that relief was on the way, as
their mournful pleas began to give way to anger.
"The government is mute," a dismayed young Haitian said while he hurried
past a body left on a traffic median. "They do nothing."
Further hampering relief efforts, the Federal Aviation Administration
temporarily stopped all private and humanitarian flights from the United
States to Haiti's clogged airports for slightly more than five hours on
Thursday, allowing only military planes, at the request of the Haitian
government, a U.S. official said. Nine planes from the United States were
already in the air when FAA issued the order, the official said. They could
not land in Haiti.
Despite the arrival of some aid and rescue teams on Thursday, Port-au-Prince
remained a haunted place of destruction, with many of its pastel buildings
collapsed into death traps.
A Haitian Red Cross official said the quake may have killed as many as
Across the sprawling city, makeshift citizen rescue crews squirmed through
openings in the debris and past bodies to search for survivors. The living
cried with joy when they were extricated. The dead were stacked on streets
and sidewalks, some victims covered with blankets or cardboard, or bound in
Many of the deceased remained in the rubble, with an arm protruding here, a
In a collapsed school, the body of a student was slumped over what appeared
to be a desk -- her dark-blue jumper and pink blouse covered in white dust.
Jeanne Baptiste, who lost her husband and three of her five children in the
quake, lay beneath a bed cloth strung between tree branches. Her sister
mopped at a ragged wound on her stomach and tried to comfort the two
"Somebody has to help us," Baptiste said weakly.
Among the dead, the State Department announced, was Victoria J. DeLong, a
cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. DeLong, who
had been in Haiti less than a year, was killed when her home collapsed.
There were some victories amid the destruction.
An urban search-and-rescue team from Fairfax County pulled an Estonian
security guard from the collapsed U.N. headquarters building.
The guard, identified as Tarmo Joveer, was discovered after rescuers heard
scratching. Television footage showed him emerging from the rubble, pumping
a fist in the air as rescuers dusted him off.
U.N. officials called it a miracle, noting that 36 other U.N. workers had
been found dead, and that nearly 200 others -- including mission chief Hï¿½di
Annabi and his chief deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa -- were still missing.
"The entire building was shaking violently," David Wimhurst, a U.N.
spokesman who was in the headquarters at the time, said Thursday. "I was
hanging on to furniture just to stop myself being thrown around the world,
and praying that the big concrete pillar in the middle of my office would
not break and bring the whole building down on me. When it subsided, the
[building] . . . had collapsed."
He said he escaped out a window and down a rickety ladder.
U.S. vows aid
At the White House, President Obama pledged $100 million in aid to Haiti, to
support what he called one of the largest international relief efforts in
Obama, flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates and Vice President Biden, said the rescue of
Haiti's people, as well as the nation's long-term recovery, is a top U.S.
The U.S. military now has a 24-hour-a-day airlift underway.
The White House said a large shipment of food will arrive Saturday. Three
U.S. military helicopters were scheduled to fly in Thursday from the
neighboring Dominican Republic loaded with water, medical supplies, hardware
and personnel. They are prepared to return to the Dominican Republic with
some of the injured.
U.S. disaster medical assistance teams, along with a disaster mortuary
assessment team, were set to depart for Haiti from Atlanta on Thursday
And before the pause in nonmilitary air traffic, the international airport
was busy with incoming planes, ferrying journalists and relief workers.
Supplies from a huge U.S. Air Force cargo and personnel plane from Travis
Air Force Base in California were being unloaded a few hundred feet from an
enormous Belgian air force plane.
Despite the traffic, six specialized urban search-and-rescue teams were
still awaiting permission to fly to Haiti to join four other U.S. teams
delayed because of the airport congestion, an American official familiar
with the situation said.
Adding to the trouble is the need to prioritize the flow of communications
gear, medical supplies and critical personnel, and the need to coordinate
flight slots among countries, the official said.
But authorities said the airlift alone will not be enough to meet the needs
of the estimated 3 million people affected by the quake.
Work is underway to set up a temporary port near Port-au-Prince. The main
commercial pier, wharf and crane that offloads shipping containers collapsed
and are in the water, Coast Guard officials said.
"The population of Haiti cannot be sustained without some way of getting
large quantities of cargo in quickly, and with the port facilities in
Port-au-Prince, that's going to be very difficult," said Capt. Peter Brown,
chief of response operations for the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District, based in
"The only option will be breaking cargo down into much smaller containers
and bringing them ashore by small boat," he said. "That's going to limit the
ability to deliver sufficient quantities," especially of food.
'Help is arriving'
Steve Matthews of the international aid organization World Vision said Haiti
needs all the help it can get.
"It's worse than I thought it would be," he said. "Most countries have some
capacity to deal with emergencies; this one has no capacity to deal with
The United States dispatched a company of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.
But the Pentagon said that only 329 U.S. military personnel were on the
The USS Carl Vinson, the Navy carrier -- loaded with 19 helicopters -- was
scheduled to arrive Friday. And the hospital ship, USNS Comfort, was
preparing to get underway.
Coast Guard cutters have begun to remove people and ferry supplies, and more
are steaming toward Haiti.
As of late Thursday, the Coast Guard had flown out more than 100 Americans,
including injured and nonessential U.S. Embassy personnel. Eighteen other
people with severe injuries -- major lacerations, fractured skulls and other
broken bones -- were taken by helicopter.
"Help is arriving," Obama said in Washington. "Much, much more help is on
But he acknowledged: "None of this will seem quick enough if you have a
loved one who is trapped, if you're sleeping on the streets, if you can't
feed your children."
Ruane reported from Washington.
* * *
January 16, 2010
For the Trapped, Rescue Is but the First Hurdle
By DAMIEN CAVE
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti ï¿½ Herby Amelï¿½s father dug through the collapsed
college building first, pulling out a body so he could reach his son,
trapped 20 feet into the pile. But when a rescue team from Miami arrived
early Friday morning, Herbyï¿½s left ankle remained pinned under a fallen
He was trapped, alive and awake, in a crevice just wider than his shoulders.
The American rescuers considered amputation, then chose instead to sedate
Mr. Amel and carefully pull him back through the rubble.
It was 3:17 a.m., and the dark street was crammed with relatives and
friends, their hands bright white with concrete dust from digging. Finally,
ï¿½upï¿½ came the call. Mr. Amel, 21, emerged, a thin, young man with swollen
legs. One rescuer wiped away tears.
It was, by most disaster measures, a successful rescue, though being pried
from the rubble was only a beginning, by no means assuring survival. Mr.
Amelï¿½s fate reflects the complications and struggles of the current aid
effort in Haiti. His drivers were not sure they would find a hospital with
room for him. With or without the amputation that doctors thought he needed,
his life was threatened from toxic shock and infection.
And the search-and-rescue experts from Miami who saved him had spent 10
frustrating hours on the ground before they could set out to dig for
The group of 80 had been ready to go on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after
the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit. But just before their
scheduled departure, they had to cancel. They were told the airport would
not let them land.
They rescheduled for Thursday, and were fortunate enough to find themselves
on the loud, crowded tarmac here at Toussaint Louverture International
Airport by 10:30 a.m. after some circling in the air. Transportation to the
United States Embassy appeared relatively quickly, too, within two hours.
But bad news followed. A cargo plane with their pneumatic hammers, lights,
tents and other equipment had been delayed. Later, they found out that it
had been rerouted to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic.
The group chafed at the holdups. Rudolph Moise, a barrel-chested doctor and
colonel in the Air Force Reserve, who grew up in Haiti, paced. By 2 p.m.,
little had changed. Leaders from the three task forces here at the time ï¿½
Fairfax County, Va., Los Angeles County and Miami-Dade County ï¿½ met in an
embassy conference room to plan out strategy. Maps were blown up and hung on
Team leaders complained of equipment they did not have and of delays.
But at this point, Carlos Gimenez, a hard-charging firefighter from Miami
with a chin as square as a cigarette box, just wanted to get out. With some
pushing, he commandeered a handful of vans and S.U.V.ï¿½s and drove toward
downtown at 3:35 p.m. Within minutes, he saw bodies alongside the road.
Eight on a hilly street of the Nazon area. Two others a few hundred yards
up, with legs protruding from gray rubble.
ï¿½Man, there are a lot of kids,ï¿½ said Mr. Gimenez, looking at a small body
under a sheet.
Crowds of Haitians streamed by on foot, some with rags over their mouths to
prevent breathing the stench of decay. Farther into Nazon, a sheared-off
wall of a home revealed a living room with a painting still on a
Only 20 minutes out of the embassyï¿½s gate, Mr. Gimenez had identified three
areas that they might need to come back and search. The fourth, however,
looked more urgent. A crowd of young men stood on what looked like a small
mountain poured like sand from an hourglass: G.O.C. University.
The team was told of at least four people trapped below. Mr. Gimenez crawled
down into a hole, where he could hear a young womanï¿½s voice. Two men seemed
to be hidden underneath an area across the roof.
The fourth person was being pulled up by Haitians. He emerged around sunset,
unable to move or speak with anything louder than a whisper. ï¿½Heï¿½s calling
for his mother,ï¿½ said a young man standing beside him.
Mr. Gimenez grew more intense. ï¿½We need to go,ï¿½ he said. The crowd, he
feared, would soon become more demanding and more frustrated when they were
unable to reach the people who were trapped.
Back at the embassy, he tried to find a way to return. Two hours later, at
7:30 p.m., he was still without his equipment, and swearing. ï¿½Itï¿½s
frustrating,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½Half our gear is in Santo Domingo.ï¿½
After an hour that felt like an eternity, a partial solution emerged. The
Miami team would borrow equipment from Fairfax County. First, though, they
needed drivers, and the men who took them out in the afternoon refused. ï¿½No
go, tonight,ï¿½ one said. He offered no explanation.
Other drivers were found, and the group was back on the road at 8:50 p.m.
They headed to pick up equipment at a search site, at the Hotel Montana,
where Dr. Moise had stayed just a few months earlier. The half-dozen vans
and S.U.V.ï¿½s spent nearly half an hour to climb the road, get what they
needed and turn around.
They turned a sharp corner. They had reached the path up to the mound of
G.O.C. University. A crowd of Haitians headed down, shouting, running with
what looked like a body. It was the young woman Mr. Gimenez had heard
speaking five hours earlier. Her leg, red and damp with blood at the knee,
moved just a touch in the glare of headlights ï¿½ she was alive.
The crowd asked the Americans for transportation. Mr. Gimenez told his group
to stay in their vehicles. He called for Dr. Moise. They tried to calm the
agitated crowd and explain that search-and-rescue teams were not equipped to
A local police truck that had driven by suddenly began to back up. The young
woman was placed in the back, and more than 20 people elbowed and squeezed
to get in the back with her.
It was time for the Americans to search for others. There were conflicting
reports about two young men being pulled out by locals. Maybe they were
saved, or maybe they died, but after sending three search dogs over the pile
and using high-tech cameras and listening devices, the Americans found no
signs of life. They could see at least four bodies in the pancaked floors
Gerald Jeanty Jr., 29, who stood halfway up the path, said he had been
searching through the rubble for his cousin, a professor at the university
who answered his phone Thursday morning. His wife had called, and he said he
was trapped. She called over and over again, but there was never another
ï¿½Itï¿½s all collapsed,ï¿½ Mr. Jeanty said, noting that his cousin worked on the
first floor of the seven-story building. ï¿½And heï¿½s at the bottom.ï¿½
As they gathered again at their vehicles, the Americans seemed disappointed.
The team from Fairfax had taken back their listening equipment just as they
were trying to determine whether they heard a faint tap-tap-tap from deep
within the tangle of rock and steel. The people they imagined saving were
But when they arrived at the Collï¿½ge du Canapï¿½-Vert, they knew they could
help. The candles Mr. Amelï¿½s father had placed in the rubble, like medieval
torches, guided them to Herby, who was studying to be a teacher.
They found a second person near the top of the rubble, crammed into a
staircase where he apparently fled during the tremor. It would take much
longer to get him out, but they were hopeful. In previous earthquakes, they
had found survivors up to 14 days later. In this case, though, he died where
What they tried not to think about was what happened next for those they
saved. The hospitals were full, and the United States Embassy, with its two
Air Force doctors, told them not to bring back Haitian patients.
Mr. Amel and his mother, father and sister drove off into the dark. They
were all quiet and calm, if only temporarily. The Americans had given him a
fighting chance, but the ketamine used to sedate as they tugged him out
would wear off in an hour. Pain, struggle and reality would soon be setting
* * *
January 16, 2010
Patience Wears Thin as Haitiï¿½s Desperation Grows
By MARC LACEY
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti ï¿½ As tension rose here in the battered Haitian
capital, relief workers scrambled on Friday to deliver desperately needed
food, water and medical care, recover survivors still trapped in the rubble
and collect thousands of decaying bodies from the streets.
An immense relief operation was under way, with cargo planes and military
helicopters buzzing over the crowded Toussaint Louverture International
Airport. But three days after the earthquake struck, with many cries for
help going silent, not nearly enough search and rescue teams or emergency
supplies could make it here. The United Nations said it had fed 8,000
people, while two million to three million people remained in dire need.
Patience was wearing thin, and reports of looting increased, as another day
went by with no power and limited fresh water.
ï¿½For the moment, this is anarchy,ï¿½ said Adolphe Reynald, a top aide to the
mayor of Port-au-Prince, as he supervised a makeshift first aid center that
was registering long lines of wounded people but had no medicine to treat
them. ï¿½Thereï¿½s nothing we can do. Weï¿½re out here to show that we care, that
weï¿½re suffering along with them.ï¿½
The United Nations said that 9,000 people had been buried in mass graves ï¿½
and collecting bodies had become one of the few ways to earn money.
ï¿½They pay me $100 a day,ï¿½ Valencia Joseph, 32, said Friday at 2 a.m., as he
was called to tug a body free of wires. ï¿½We must have picked up 2,000
He added, ï¿½And thereï¿½s more.ï¿½
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would
visit Haiti on Saturday to show support for the victims of the 7.0-magnitude
quake. The Obama administration, cautioning that it would take time for all
the aid to reach those in need, granted Haitians living in the United States
protection from deportation for 18 months and permission to work.
Mr. Obama said he had spoken with the Haitian president, Renï¿½ Prï¿½val, and
pledged the United Statesï¿½ full commitment in helping rebuild from a quake
that, according to United Nations estimates, destroyed at least 30 percent
of the capital and half the buildings in some neighborhoods.
ï¿½As I told the president, we realize that he needs more help and his country
needs more help ï¿½ much more,ï¿½ Mr. Obama said. ï¿½And in this difficult hour,
we will continue to provide it.ï¿½
The United States, in fact, took firmer control of the emergency operation
on Friday. After three days of chaos and congestion at the airport in
Port-au-Prince, Haitiï¿½s government ceded control of it to American
technicians, to speed the flow of relief supplies and personnel.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which began managing air traffic into
Haitian airspace, issued a stern warning to allow aid to flow in a more
orderly way: no planes from the United States, military or civilian, would
be allowed to land without express permission from the agency.
Exceptions to the new rule would be granted only to humanitarian aid planes,
based on arrival times and on the availability of space at the airport, a
notice from the agency said. The F.A.A. warned pilots that fuel still was
not available at the airport, and that any aircraft bound here would need to
have enough fuel to circle in the air for at least an hour.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that 9,000
to 10,000 American troops were expected in Haiti, on shore and off, by
Monday, and that the Pentagon was poised to send more.
Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, Admiral Mullen said that about 5,000
would be ground troops, who would help with security and logistical support,
among other duties; the rest would be on ships. He said that an American
aircraft carrier, the Carl Vinson, arrived off Haiti early Friday with 19
helicopters aboard, and that it would serve as a staging area for relief
flights, purified water and other supplies.
Port-au-Prince, volatile in normal times, remained relatively calm, but the
United Nations reported that one of its food warehouses in the capital had
been looted. It called the theft limited and said it had recovered most of
Looting of houses and shops increased Friday, and anger boiled over in
unpredictable ways: residents near the cityï¿½s overfilled main cemetery
stoned a group of ambulance workers seeking to drop off more bodies.
Some people were bracing for the worst. Harold Marzouka, a Haitian-American
businessman who was hustling his family onto a private jet to Miami, said he
could feel the tension rising and feared that hunger and desperation might
prompt an explosion of violence.
ï¿½If aid doesnï¿½t start pouring in at a significant level, there will be
serious consequences on the streets,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½People are in the shocked
and frightened phase. But the next phase will be survival.ï¿½
In New York, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said he
recognized that the slow pace of the relief effort could make people in
ï¿½I suspect there will be some frustrations felt by the general population,ï¿½
he said. ï¿½We are very much concerned about that kind of possibility and are
taking all possible precautionary measures.ï¿½
Overnight, rescuers pulled eight survivors from the rubble of the Hotel
Montana, which served the countryï¿½s elite and well-heeled foreign guests,
and on Friday morning, they pulled out Dan Woolley, an American with a
Colorado-based Christian charity, who had been trapped in an elevator.
Another American was found alive in the damaged hotel but the effort to
extract him extended long into the night.
Ephraim Lindor, a Haitian colleague of Mr. Woolley who had dropped him off
at the hotel just before it collapsed, said it was a miracle that he
survived. ï¿½I walked him into the hotel, and two or three seconds later the
earthquake hit,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½I got out but he didnï¿½t.ï¿½
For rescuers and those buried, every hour that passed was an enemy.
ï¿½The time window is ever shrinking,ï¿½ said Florian Westphal, a spokesman for
the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.
At the State Department, Rajiv Shah, the coordinator for the relief effort
who is traveling here with Mrs. Clinton, said the United States had not
given up on finding survivors.
ï¿½There is still an important open window of time today, tonight,ï¿½ he said,
adding that survivors could even be found on Saturday.
Two aftershocks of about 4.5 magnitude rumbled through the island around 4
a.m. and 8:40 a.m. Friday, according to the United States Geological Survey.
They spread fresh fear through the capital, where thousands were spending
the night outside or in temporary shelters, still without electricity or
reliable phone service.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted from Haitiï¿½s presidency five years
ago, wept Friday as he told The Associated Press in Johannesburg that he and
his family wanted to return and ï¿½help rebuild the country.ï¿½
There were signs of resilience in the midst of the rubble and grief as many
Haitians, long accustomed to privation and unreliable government services,
went on with their lives. Sidewalk markets popped up, offering food to the
hungry, while hotels that survived the earthquake were still booking rooms
and taxi drivers were threading through the debris-covered streets.
At the Dominican border, the small town of Jimanï¿½ became a rescue center, a
way station for Americans being airlifted from Port-au-Prince and a
destination for convoys carrying the quakeï¿½s wounded to a hospital there.
ï¿½They just keep coming,ï¿½ said Pastor Leocadio Alcantara, who estimated the
hospital staff had seen 5,000 people in three days.
Normally, he said, to have 100 patients in that time would be considered a
As a caravan of missionaries carrying water and other supplies headed across
the border into Haiti, a man hosing the street shouted, ï¿½God help you.ï¿½
Reporting was contributed by Damien Cave and Ruth Fremson from
Port-au-Prince, Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations, Helene Cooper from
Washington, Micheline Maynard from Detroit, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Jack Healy
and Sharon Otterman from New York and Ginger Thompson from Jimanï¿½, Dominican
* * *
Looters roam Port-au-Prince as earthquake death toll estimate climbs
Hunger and thirst turn to violence in Haiti as planes unable to offload aid
supplies fast enough
Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 16 January 2010
Link to this video
The death toll from Haiti's earthquake climbed to as high as an estimated
140,000, as logistical bottlenecks delayed aid and stoked looting by
survivors desperate for food and water.
A flotilla of ships anchored offshore while aircraft circled overhead, but
only a trickle of supplies and emergency teams made it onto the shattered
streets of Port-au-Prince, where the desperation was turning into violence.
Groups of men with machetes roved the ruins seeking supplies of food or
water; others used corpses as roadblocks, a macabre sign that the capital
had reached breaking point after four days of apocalyptic scenes. "They are
scavenging everything. What can you do?" Michel Legros, 53, told AP as he
waited for help to search for seven of relatives buried in his collapsed
Aramick Louis, secretary of state for public safety, told Reuters the death
toll had exceeded 140,000. "We have buried 40,000 people. We think there are
100,000 more on top of that."
The Pan American Health Organization, the Americas arm of the World Health
Organization, estimated the deaths from Tuesday's magnitude 7 quake at
between 50,000 and 100,000, but said that was a "huge guess". Earlier this
week the Red Cross estimated up to 50,000. A British woman, UN worker Ann
Barnes, 59, remains missing after the building in which she was collapsed in
The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, estimated that in the worst areas 50%
of buildings were damaged or destroyed, leaving 3m people without access to
food, water, shelter and electricity. Ban Ki-moon said he would arrive in
Haiti "very soon".
More than 25 rescue teams are now deployed at schools, hotels, hospitals and
larger buildings, with 13 more on their way, according to the UN. No further
field hospitals were required, but surgeons and medicines were badly needed.
Teams dug out dozens of survivors, but any joy was fleeting amid the sight
and stench of thousands of corpses decomposing under a tropical sun.
Graves, some with more than a hundred bodies, were dug in rural areas just
outside the capital, while in the shantytown of Carrefour local authories
said more than 2,000 corpses were burned. The WHO recommended corpses be
treated with chemicals and interred in open ditches, giving relatives a
chance to identify them, rather than mass graves. "The scale of this
disaster has overwhelmed all capacities," said Paul Garwood, a WHO
spokesman. "There's an urgent need to get more and more body bags into the
area so that we can properly handle these bodies."
In Washington, Barack Obama said that help was on its way: "I want the
people of Haiti to know we'll do what it takes to save lives and to help
them get back on their feet," said the US president. "The scale of the
devastation is extraordinary ... and the losses are heartbreaking."
His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, was due to arrive in Port-au-Prince
today for talks with President Renï¿½ Prï¿½val. Clinton said details of her trip
were being worked out but that she planned to bring relief supplies as well
as helping to evacuate some Americans.
Hospitals and clinics are either destroyed or overwhelmed. Many of the
wounded streamed into the neighbouring Dominican Republic seeking treatment.
"There have been more than 500 today; so, so many," anaesthesiologist
Gilberto Rojas told the New York Daily News. "We have been doing so many
amputations, seeing so many people with abdominal trauma."
President Prï¿½val and the prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, were said to be
coordinating the government response from the judicial police HQ near the
airport but on the streets the state was again absent, with virtually no
sign of police or emergency crews. The 9,000-strong UN peacekeeping force
seemed stunned by the disaster and its own losses.
Whether it wanted to or not, the United States was rapidly taking ownership.
Obama has pledged an initial $100m and enlisted his predecessors, Bill
Clinton and George W Bush, to help raise more.
Last night Haiti's government agreed to grant temporary control of the
airport to the US to speed relief work, thestate department said. A vanguard
of 300 paratroopers arrived overnight, and 10,000 more troops will be in
Haiti and offshore by Monday, said Admiral Mike Mullen.
Helicopters from the carrier USS Carl Vinson ferried supplies ashore but
off-loading was fraught because the port and airport were damaged and
congested. The navy said it would serve as a "floating airport". Military
planners hesitated to drop food and water packages from the air because it
could lead to rioting.
"The key is to get the food and the water in there as quickly as possible,
so people don't in their desperation turn to violence or lead to the
security situation deteriorating," said the defence secretary, Robert Gates.
Cuba gave the US permission to fly over its airspace, saving 90 minutes.
Across Port-au-Prince the refrain was the same. "My neighbours and friends
are suffering," said Sylvain Angerlotte, 22. "We don't have money. We don't
have nothing to eat. We need pure water."
UN peacekeepers protected convoys, while aid workers reported scuffles as
people scrambled for supplies of water and energy biscuits. "We're sending
our police into areas where bandits are starting to operate," said Louis,
the public safety secretary of state. "Some people are robbing, are
stealing. That is wrong. Our message to everyone is to stay calm."
Shops have been stripped, but UN food warehouses, contrary to earlier
reports, were not looted. "The food is there," said a spokeswoman, Emilia
Casella. They are working on getting a peacekeeper contingent to protect the
warehouses. Some 6,000 tons of food and other supplies were due to be handed
The UN said that it was considering converting the national football stadium
into a field hospital, and setting up collective kitchens for the homeless.
Jan Egerland, a former UN humanitarian chief, said: "We're in a very classic
development. Days three, four and five are the most frustrating. Everybody
knows the whole world is mobilising, and everyone has heard the promises.
But it takes time to reach the beneficiaries. The infrastructure has either
gone or is totally clogged up," he told the BBC.From his exile in South
Africa, Haiti's former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, said that he and
his wife were ready to return.
"We are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time, to join the people of
Haiti. To share their suffering to rebuild the country, moving from poverty
with dignity," he told reporters, tears streaming down his face.
* * *
Haitian Rapper Jimmy O Killed In Earthquake
Jimmy O worked with Wyclef's Yele Haiti organization.
By Gil Kaufman
Hours after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook the island
of Haiti, Wyclef Jean put out a plea to anyone with information about the
whereabouts of Haitian rapper Jimmy O, who is a part of 'Clef's nonprofit
Yele Haiti foundation.
"I urge everyone who's listening right now that knows how great this kid is
in Haiti ï¿½ I need y'all to verify this information," he said during a CNN
interview. "It would be a terrible loss for us."
On Friday (January 15), CNN confirmed that O, 35, who had reportedly
traveled to the island to work on a mixtape, had died in the quake.
According to reports, O was crushed while driving around downtown
CNN was on the scene when O's body was discovered Friday and watched as a
man examined the body and pulled the artist's passport from his pocket,
verifying the corpse as that of Jean "Jimmy O" Jimmy Alexandre.
Agent Robert Dominique was also present at the discovery of the body and
verified his identity. "His loss will be tremendous in Haiti," Dominique
said. He said that in addition to helping run the Yele Haiti charity, O also
developed new talent and artists in Haiti.
The grief-stricken mother of the musician and his wife and two of his three
children were present at the scene and were reportedly joined by a crowd
that was also overcome with emotion over the loss.
As of Friday morning, Yele Haiti had raised more than $2 million from mobile
giving, according to Albe Angel, CEO of Miami-based Give on the Go, the
mobile-communications company working with nonprofit Yele Haiti to
coordinate donations. In addition to food distribution and emergency relief,
Yele Haiti has provided thousands of scholarships to children since its
founding in 2004.
* * *
Despair and suffering at the Crossroads in Haiti
By JONATHAN M. KATZ Associated Press writer
Posted:01/15/2010 05:08:16 PM PST
CARREFOUR, Haitiï¿½The sense here is helplessness. There is no one to be
angry at over an earthquake, no political frustration to vent.
Misery does not discriminate in Haiti today. Everyone suffered
equallyï¿½those who spent their days in U.N. penthouse offices, those who
lived in hillside concrete shacksï¿½when the Earth claimed their lives with an
equally fatal shrug.
Now, with the police force depleted, hospitals destroyed and the mayor
rumored to be either wandering town or gone, who can the mostly impoverished
people turn to for aid?
Anyone who speaks or sounds foreign, to start with.
Stevenson Belgrade, a 22-year-old auto mechanic with halting but
steady English, asked an Associated Press team for water, medicine and latex
gloves for 40 families huddled in a Jehovah's Witness hall. Someone had come
by in the morning and thrown two bodies on their front door, he explained.
He persisted through several explanations that there were no
provisions, only a few latex gloves to offer, never really giving up even as
the conversation ended.
"When can I come back for help?" he asked, his voice falling slightly
to a whisper. "We are beaten."
Carrefour was not always like this. Its name means "crossroads," and
this community on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince has passed plenty in
Haiti's troubled history.
The town, so-named because it was here that the roads to a dozen
rice-planting villages met near the sea, was once a leafy suburb, said
Michael-Ange Ferdinand, a journalist for the town's "Haiti Development"
Crossroads are an essential part of life in Haiti, where populations
are spread over mountainous terrain and nearly everybody walks. In Voodoo,
the lord of the crossroads is usually the first spirit invoked to make way
for others, his intersections uniting past and future, the seen and unseen.
That sense of connectivity, and its location just a few miles down the
road from the capital, made it a favorite spot for artists and swank social
clubs in the era of the Duvalier dictatorship.
But overpopulation and mismanagement polluted its popular Riviere
Froid, felled its trees for fuel and space, and transformed what was once a
garden community into a dusty, rundown suburb of concrete shops and low-rise
Then, in a matter of moments, this week's earthquake created something
far worse: an overwhelming sense of emptiness, frustration and a lost
The quake cratered an estimated 100 schools, cracked open hospitals
and tipped over the mayor's office, claiming the lives of 6,000 of the
roughly 900,000 who lived in Carrefour, according to estimates by the local
civil protection department.
As bodies were thrown into trucks and driven to the outskirts of town
to be burned Friday, residents painted toothpaste around their noses and
begged passers-by for surgical masks to cut the smell of the dead.
"If the government still exists and the United Nations is around, I
hope they can help us get the bodies out," said Sherine Pierre, a
21-year-old communications student whose sister died when her house
Among the destroyed structures was the Institution Catherine Flon, a
set of three four-story schools serving thousands of students in various
When the earthquake struck, physics teacher Leslie Lafond was ambling
with his cane down the stairs after his 3 p.m. class. Suddenly the school's
middle tower crashed to the ground, taking half the rear tower with it.
Those here estimate 250 people died inside.
In the days since, the staff has seen no firefighters, no soldiers, no
aid. A city worker brought over a police generator light to illuminate the
rubble, where on Friday the fly-swarmed legs of a student still stuck out.
A U.S. military helicopter flew by, and the women shouted at it:
"Here! Here! We need help!"
Lafond, 52, tearfully recalled his students, all dead now. A
colleague, Pierre Parnel, a history teacher he says was a rock of the
community, also died.
"He was a very important person for this community," Lafond said. "We
are going to have about 50 years just to build again."
There is a sense of the surreal as well.
Patients waited for first aid in front of a partially disintegrated
Carrefour hospital as a man ran around with a bullhorn yelling, "All care is
free! Do not give anyone money!"
Inside, a team from Doctors Without Borders examined a pregnant woman,
Celine Gelsaint. She was due the day the quake struck but did not deliver,
and since then her baby breached the placenta and died. She will die, too,
they said, if she does not receive an emergency cesarian section that nobody
in town can currently provide. A midwife could only watch over her as she
received a saline drip.
"This hospital, we could re-equip" said Hans Van Dillen, country
director for Doctors Without Borders-Holland. "They have nothing, but if we
could bring in the materials and the people, we could have it up and running
in a couple hours."
Out on the streets, there is fear of what might come, even among the
Johnny Simplice, a 26-year-old who followed thousands of other
recruits to Haiti's re-forming National Police in the past year, moved his
shotgun butt in the dirt.
"Everything is not OK here. People have been looting since the
earthquakeï¿½guys who have escaped from prison," he said. "Their objective is
to dissolve the police."
He wishes he could do more for his increasingly troubled people, who
had come to see the police as a sign of hope and security instead of the
aggressors they were in the past. But the earthquake has made that
"A lot of police died. We don't have enough to work," he said.
* * *
Digicel, the biggest mobile phone operator in Haiti, sent this statement to
reporters on Friday:
As Digicel continues to work around the clock to restore vital
communications in Haiti, the company today expressed grave concern that
flights carrying the necessary experts and equipment are not able to land at
Haitiï¿½s international airport.
A fully operational communications network is of critical importance to
the relief efforts that are currently underway and, to date, four flights
carrying Digicel technicians and equipment have been turned away from the
airport in Port-au-Prince.
Digicel Chairman, Denis Oï¿½Brien, said: ï¿½We have been in contact with the
United Nations and numerous NGOs who are telling us that restoring Haitiï¿½s
communications network is a vital first step in this relief effort. It is
critical that our planes carrying all the necessary equipment and
technicians be allowed to land in Haiti.ï¿½
Following the earthquake on Tuesday, January 12th, Digicel deployed a team
of technical experts to Haiti. Digicelï¿½s three switches - which serve the
entire country ï¿½ have been assessed by the team and they are operational.
However, a number of sites have been damaged ï¿½ specifically some roof top
sites in Port-au-Prince. Congestion also continues to be an issue which
Digicel will be able to resolve once the necessary equipment arrives.
* * *
Writer, Haiti, Middle East, LA
Posted: January 15, 2010 12:09 PM
BIO Become a Fan
Get Email Alerts Bloggers' Index
Haiti and the Depths of Darkness
digg Huffpost - stumble reddit del.ico.us
Read More: Duvalier Dynasty , Haiti , Haiti Earthquake , Haiti Earthquake
Relief , Jean Bertrand Aristide , Papa Doc Duvalier , Pierre Joseph Valcin ,
Port-Au-Prince , Richard Morse , World News
It's the middle of the night and I'm trying unsuccessfully to locate friends
in Port-au-Prince over the Internet. Nothing's getting me anywhere. I'm
imagining the apartment building where I last saw Renald Clerisme, a former
priest who was a hard worker in the cause of democracy and who was foreign
minister under Rene Preval for a time. Renald is an old friend of mine and
one of the great analysts of the Haitian scene, humorous and caustic even,
and always quick to rip through hypocrisy. His place was in a new and modern
apartment building, and I am finding it hard, as I scroll through Google
Earth and the New York Times before-and-after photos, to believe it
survived. I'm hoping he wasn't home when the earthquake struck.
I'm sitting right now under a painting I bought at the Hotel Oloffson in
late January, 1986, on my first visit. The Duvalier dynasty was about to
fall. The painting is by Pierre Joseph Valcin and it features the
personifications (although I didn't know it at the time) of the voodoo
figures Cousin Zaka and Baron Samedi. Zaka is a central agricultural figure,
the god of the fields, and Baron is the lord of the cemetery. In the
painting the two are meeting in a wooded but solitary grove, Baron atop a
white horse. Both men are barefoot and the trees that surround them seem
alive and full of a kind of spirited menace. The two men seem to be
arranging something between them -- now when I look at it the painting seems
to have some new awful meaning, and I've just noticed for the first time
that Zaka has under his arm a tiny coffin. Read one way, it's a farmer
leading the lord of the cemetery through the last forest of Haiti.
And of course one reason there are so many dead in Haiti is that agriculture
in the countryside was no longer providing a livelihood for Haitian
peasants; they moved in the thousands to the capital, they built shanties on
the sides of canyons; all gone now. I won't go over the arguments against
globalization for countries like Haiti here. Suffice it to say that Haiti,
once the Pearl of the Antilles, once France's most valuable and productive
colony, and still into the 19th century at least an important provider of
the world's sugar, rum, and coffee, is now a net importer.
The earthquake did some very bizarre things, things that we can see very
clearly, while Haitians on the ground may not realize what's gone. The
absolute deflation of the National Palace -- one doesn't know how to feel
about it, properly. So many bad things went on there. Papa Doc Duvalier did
much of his wretched planning and conniving in that giant white behemoth.
Baby Doc had parties there and lived in regal splendor with his babe of a
wife, the witchy Michele Bennett.
After Baby Doc fled with Michele, I attended the installation of the
National Council of Government (more like a US-installed junta, for all the
fancy name) and watched in amazement as a panic tore through a ceremony and
people knocked over their gold-painted, red-cushioned chairs as they tried
to flee the room. When Aristide came into power, he spoke from the steps of
the building to a huge crowd of Haitians who gathered behind the Palace
A few days later, he took me on a tour, and showed me Michele Bennett's
disco dressing room, as big as an American living room, and her refrigerated
fur closet (in a tropical country!). There were always great fat geese
wandering around the palace grounds in the back, and big men with guns
patrolling. Now this imposing triple-domed edifice looks like three fat
pillows that have lost their stuffing.
The earthquake has erased both the personal and political past. It's a
terribly strange sensation, as if memory has been ripped away.
Port-au-Prince's charm was always ramshackle. There were still gingerbread
houses, as of Monday, and some old wooden construction downtown that had
escaped fire and flood. Downtown, especially on Grande Rue, there was a kind
of cacophony and chaos that still seemed to work; the people of Haiti are
very very busy all the time because to cobble anything together there,
anything of sustenance, takes a tremendous amount of energy. Now whole
neighborhoods are gone. I read in the Tweets of friends in Haiti that all
the places where we lived are flattened, and hundreds of the residents
killed. One Tweet I read yesterday from Richard Morse, who sometimes blogs
here and who runs the Oloffson, read simply "Bodies. Bodies. Bodies.
In the old days when I talked to my friend Renald, I would laugh at his
optimism. It didn't matter who had been assassinated recently, or what
economic crisis was happening, what flood. It didn'<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)