Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Rubble remains months after quake

Two men remove rubble from a building destroyed by the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Rubble is everywhere in Haiti's capital: cracked slabs, broken-up cinder blocks, half-destroyed buildings that still spill bricks and pulverised concrete on the pavements.

Some places look as though they were flipped upside down, or are sinking to the ground, or listing precariously to one side.

By some estimates, the quake left about 25 million cubic metres of debris in Port-au-Prince, more than seven times the amount of concrete used to build the Hoover Dam.

So far, only about 2% has been cleared, which means the city looks pretty much as it did a month after the January 12 quake.

Government officials and outside aid groups say rubble removal is the priority before Haiti can rebuild. The reasons why so little has been cleared are complex and frustrating.

Heavy equipment has to be shipped in by sea. Dump trucks have difficulty navigating narrow and mountainous dirt roads.

An abysmal property records system makes it hard for the government to determine who owns a dilapidated property. And there are few sites on which to dump the rubble, which often contains human remains.

No single person in the Haitian government has been declared in charge of clearing the rubble.

This means foreign non-governmental organisations have taken on the rubble removal task themselves, often fighting for a small pool of available money and contracts. The work is done piecemeal, with little co-ordination.

"There's not a master plan," sighed Eric Overvest, country director for the UN Development Programme. "After the earthquake, the first priority was clearing the roads. That was the easiest part."

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