Welcome to hell in Haiti.
(AFP) – 14 hours ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Police have moved to evict thousands of homeless quake victims from squalid encampments in Haiti’s capital, even from the pitch of the country’s national stadium.
Beginning late Friday, contingents of the Haitian National Police began breaking down tents and other shelters in the Sylvio Cator stadium, almost three months after the January 12 quake killed more than 220,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.
Evacuations of tent cities across Port-au-Prince were meanwhile being ramped up Saturday, including the first few hundred from the overcrowded camp at the Petionville golf club, which is prone to mudslides and flooding, to a new location 20 kilometers (12 miles) away.
About 7,335 people, including some 1,300 families, have sought shelter on national stadium’s artificial turf since it was opened up to victims after the disaster, according to authorities — but their welcome has come to an end.
“We could no longer tolerate people living here. They did everything (in the stadium): prostitution, rape and theft,” said stadium director Rolny St. Louis.
Officials handed out tents to occupants ahead of the eviction, in preparation for returning the stadium to sports use.
“We need to revive football. There are players waiting to play again, and feed their families from their job,” said St. Louis, who was heckled by the exiting crowd who accuse him leaving people live on the streets.
As for the golf club, officials have said it plans to move some 8,000 Haitians from the makeshift camp ahead of the rainy season.
UN officials said this week more than a million Haitians, about 90 percent of those made homeless in January’s devastating earthquake, had received tents or other means of shelter.
At that current pace, all Haitians who lost their homes in quake will have some form of shelter by May 1, said officials from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Authorities have been racing to get shelter for Haitians still without homes ahead of the start of the rainy season.
Hundreds of Haitians have died in past years in their flood-prone country, swept away by landslides or drowned in flooding. Flooding in Haiti is exacerbated by widespread deforestation as people cut down trees and bushes to build cooking fires.
Reporting from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
Relief organizations on Saturday began to move Haitians from tent camps that are in danger of flooding to new camps on the perimeter of the city, part of a larger plan to decentralize the population after January’s devastating earthquake.
After a heavy rain the night before, buses carried 62 people from a bedraggled camp on a defunct golf course to a barren field 10 miles northwest of the city.
Aid workers helped Romaine Vincent Donal, 44, load her belongings in wheelbarrows. People cheered her on as she was first up a hill to the buses. She said she couldn’t wait to leave, though she didn’t know where she was going.
Five hours later, she walked across a dust-blown clearing looking for a latrine. With little rain in this part of the country, the terrain is dry and spotted with spiny shrubs and cactus.
Wind constantly funnels between two mountain ranges and kicks up talc-like dust.
“I don’t like it,” she said. “It’s like a wasteland.”
Dump trucks were unloading rubble and gravel to tamp down the dust. But the only thing to offer shade or shelter from the wind was a few white tents, listing and flapping hard.
“I think they should have gotten things better organized before they brought us out here,” Donal said. “The way they were explaining it, this place was going to be great. They lied.”
Workers were still putting up latrines and tents in a last-minute operation as the rainy season bears down on the capital.
Thousands of people in Port-au-Prince are living on dangerously steep and muddy slopes or on tidal flats that are routinely inundated. More than 1.7 million people were displaced in the capital alone; the quake killed more than 200,000.
Although there is open land closer to the city, landowners have not been willing to give it up, according to news reports.
United Nations officials and foreign aid groups have complained that the government has been slow to secure new sites and sign off on relocation plans.
President Rene Preval on Saturday toured the new camp, called Corail Cesselesse, with the just-arrived residents.
In an interview, he said this was part of his broader reconstruction plan to free Port-au-Prince from congestion and create better-designed population centers throughout the country.
“Port-au-Prince was already too crowded,” Preval said. “Scientists have always said this is the normal extension of Port-au-Prince.”
Why so far? “Here the state has a lot of land.”