ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Haïti : peut-être plus de 100 000 morts
by Bernard Duraud
Translated Friday 22 January 2010, by Henry Crapoand reviewed by
The violent earthquake that has just hit Haïti brings a new and hard blow to this Caribbean country, which is one of the poorest on the planet. Allegedly, there are thousands of victims and considerable damage. The international community is mobilising.
There is a disaster at Haïti. The country was preparing to celebrate at its carnival, in one minute it reached the depths of despair. Today it pays a grave tribute to the violent earthquake which registered 7 on the Richter scale and which spread violently on Tuesday at 16.52 hours (21.53 hours Greenwich Mean Time) on the island of Hispaniola which Haïti shares with the Dominican Republic. Worst affected are the western side and its capital, Port-au-Prince. Asmany as thirty aftershocks may have followed. The victims are uncountable and the damage impossible to assess. It’s the strongest earthquake ever felt in Haïti, poorest among the poor of the planet.
The earthquake has completely devastated Port-au-Prince which has more than 2 million inhabitants. Several of the great buildings in the town centre, beginning with the presidential palace are no more than just heaps of ruins. The cathedral, the hospitals, hotels, among them the Montana full of tourists and schools collapsed like houses of cards or are severely damaged. During the evening, police vehicles, United Nations and the Red Cross had great difficulty using the roads which were blocked by the fallen masonry of houses. A doctor covered in blood and with a wounded arm explained to the AFP that ‘the dead will be counted by hundreds until it is possible to assess the numbers’. Yesterday the President who himself survived, expected that this macabre calculation would be expressed in thousands of victims. Among these are probably the inhabitants of the shanty towns which nestle above the town and which were still inaccessible yesterday to vehicles. The wounded flooded into the health centres to be nursed, just as at Martissant .
The night of the 12th to the 13th January was doubtless the longest and most terrifying for the Haïtians; thousands of homeless haunted the streets, waiting for dawn to size up the disaster and the indescribable destruction. The dead and the wounded bodies on the ground and on the pavements. Hundreds of students were prisoners in the rubble at the university. The town is dead. Partially destroyed…Communications practically reduced to nothing. Only the radio stations have been able to put out appeals for help.
The general quarters of the United Nations Mission for stabilization in Haïti (Minustah) is shrouded under the rubble. A hundred or so people were in the building. The special representative of the United Nations, Tunisian, Hedi Annabi died. It was possible to disentangle some survivors yesterday morning.
The catastrophe created consternation all over the world, from Paris, through Washington to Caracas. The American President, Barack Obama, indicated, in a communiqué that his country was going to provide an emergency fund and promised ‘unfailing help’ to Haïti, as well as the deployment of a rescue team and despatch of supplies. A speaker for the Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), Jean-Luc Martinage announced the setting-up of a ’massive international help operation’. The United Nations, mourning, prepares a ‘major mobilisation’ of help and the General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon was to go there ‘as soon as possible’.
The World Food Programme (WFP), the IMF and the Interamerican Bank for Development (IBD) have also made provisions so that they could lend their help. Haiti, endebted, poor, suffers from every evil and according to all evidence cannot cope alone. Poverty is already intolerable, 80% of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day. Cyclones and storms create devastating floods and landslides. But despite an economy under international perfusion and an order confirmed by the United Nations tutelage, the country remains out of action due to dependance. Today, it’s up to the international community to reduce its huge debts