Disasters & Accidents

Damage remains in Haiti’s capital 13 years after devastating quake

By Milo Milfort

Port-au-Prince, Jan 12 (EFE).- The Haitian capital has only a handful of new public buildings to show for the millions of dollars devoted to reconstruction after greater Port-au-Prince was struck on Jan. 12, 2010, by a magnitude-7.3 earthquake blamed for more than 200,000 deaths.

Work has yet to begin on rebuilding the National Palace and what began as camps for the 1.3 million people displaced by the temblor have become shantytowns.

And while the two major earthquakes that rocked the Caribbean nation did less damage because they took place in less-populated areas, efforts to implement the lessons learned from the 2010 quake have been limited.

“We said that we would do everything. But we didn’t do anything. There was nobody in technically important positions. The will was lacking,” urban planner Rose-May Guignard told EFE.

“Nobody took the initiative in reconstruction,” she said, pointing to the absence of a designated agency to oversee and coordinate rebuilding efforts.

Information from the World Bank indicates that much of the more than $13 billion in aid promised to Haiti in the wake of the disaster never materialize.

And most of the money that did reach Haiti was not managed or disbursed by the Haitian government.

“There has been no reconstruction. Only 1 percent of the funds were delivered to the Haitian state. The rest was given to NGOs and international experts,” businessman Jean-Lucien Ligonde said, going on to acknowledge that “the Haitian state did not have the means to coordinate the aid.”

“The priorities were not defined by Haiti, but by international experts,” Ligonde said.

Fewer than a dozen of the roughly 40 government buildings in Port-au-Prince that were damaged by the temblor were rebuilt and the funding for those structures came from the debt forgiveness extended by Haiti’s international creditors and from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program.

In recent years, the growing lawlessness in Haiti has made large projects all-but-impossible. Large parts of Port-au-Prince are under the control of well-armed gangs and hundreds of residents have fled.

“The vulnerability of buildings has improved slightly” since 2010, Guignard said, attributing the gains to the training of some construction workers in making structures more capable of withstanding earthquakes.

But Haiti’s ability to deal with disasters has not improved, she said.

“We have difficulties in mobilizing,” Guignard said. “We don’t know how to save lives.” EFE


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