Ruin extends well beyond Haiti’s capitalJanuary 23rd, 2010 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS
Leogane (Haiti), Jan 23 (IANS/EFE) The magnitude-7.0 earthquake that levelled much of the Haitian capital 10 days ago also left a trail of destruction in Leogane town, where 90 percent of the buildings are in ruins.
Schools, hospitals, shops, bars, homes and city hall, the temblor spared almost nothing in this city 60 km southwest of Port-au-Prince, where residents have cobbled together makeshift dwellings from corrugated iron, canvas, tablecloths and random bits of material to shelter from the blazing Caribbean sun.
“Do you know if someone has tents to give us?” asks Hilda Acindor, dean of a nursing school, now an immense refugee camp.
One of the displaced living on the school’s grounds, Leoville Meolene, 23, recounts three occasions since the Jan 12 quake that “some white people” came and distributed rations of spaghetti, candy and water.
Max Mathurine, of the Leogane Coordination Committee, summarises the city’s most pressing needs as removing the dead bodies; treating the injured; providing food and water to those in need, clearing the rubble; ensuring public safety and obtaining tents.
Police here have found 1,624 bodies so far, but they say the toll is probably closer to 3,000, or 10 percent of Leogane’s population. Fatalities nationwide could be as high as 200,000 and the number left homeless is estimated at 1.5 million.
Mathurine criticised humanitarian groups who bring food or other supplies “in complete disorder”, but said given the slow pace of his committee’s efforts, it’s easy to understand why some organisations have ventured into Leogane to help whoever they can, with or without approval from authorities.
There has been no violence in the city, but some residents have helped themselves to the contents of shops, and police chief Alain Auguste says his 38 cops - 10 are missing and feared dead - can do little to stop it.
Some US and Canadian soldiers have been camping on the outskirts of Leogane for two days.
One of the Canadians said during a foray into the city centre that his unit’s mission is to search for Canadian nationals, “while we also provide a little security”.
The US, Canadian and Haitian governments and the UN Stabilization Force for Haiti, or Minustah, agreed within days of the earthquake that UN forces would be in charge of keeping order, while the Americans and Canadians would only provide security for aid distribution.
Police chief Auguste is not happy that foreign troops have wandered onto his patch “without even coming to see me and see what we need”.
“It’s a little humiliating, no?” he complains.
Seated on a lump of rock in the ruins of the sanctuary, Rev. Marat Guirand, pastor of Leogane’s main Catholic church, says: “Rumours go around, they say these Americans come to occupy our country … So I think that that can be good for us, because this country truly needs a new era.
“Here, people have always lived in waiting. Now what they’re waiting for is simply the truck that comes with food.”
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Tags: canadian soldiers, caribbean sun, complete disorder, coordination committee, corrugated iron, dead bodies, dwellings, haitian capital, humanitarian groups, leogane, most pressing needs, nursing school, port au prince, random bits, rations, refugee camp, rubble, slow pace, tablecloths, temblor