New plan for Haiti’s earth­quake home­less: move back to de­stroyed neigh­bour­hoods

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Re­lief of­fi­cials have changed tack and are urg­ing Haiti’s earth­quake home­less to re­turn to their de­stroyed neigh­bour­hoods as the rainy sea­son fast ap­proaches.

Of­fi­cials had ini­tially planned to build big camps out­side Por­tau-Prince. They still an­tic­i­pate cre­at­ing some set­tle­ments, but they de­cided this week to in­stead em­pha­size get­ting peo­ple to pack up their tents and tarps and go home.

For that to be pos­si­ble, au­thor­i­ties will need to de­mol­ish hun­dreds if not thou­sands of build­ings and re­move moun­tains of rub­ble.

A

20-minute

down­pour Thurs­day evening gave a taste of the ap­proach­ing rainy sea­son and the prob­lems it will bring. Peo­ple dashed for shel­ter down streets stream­ing with runoff while trash clogged gut­ters and turned de­pres­sions into ponds.

Haiti’s gov­ern­ment weather ser­vice lifted its warn­ing of heavy rains Fri­day morn­ing, but ad­vised peo­ple to re­main vig­i­lant as chilly winds and dark clouds moved through Port-au-Prince.

Floods and mud­slides threaten hun­dreds of thou­sands liv­ing in camps, and many dwellings are se­verely dam­aged or cling­ing to the sides of hill­sides.

Some of the hun­dreds of Haitians who lined up at a down- town site Thurs­day to reg­is­ter for the new cam­paign to re­set­tle many of the 1.2 mil­lion home­less back in their old neigh­bour­hoods ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about the plan. Re­lief of­fi­cials also ac­knowl­edged the im­mense chal­lenges.

“ There will be flood­ing. There will be dis­com­fort, mis­ery. And that’s not avoid­able,” a top U.N. of­fi­cial for Haiti, An­thony Ban­bury, told a New York news con­fer­ence this week.

Camp dwellers — the cap­i­tal alone has some 770,000 — wel­comed the idea of swap­ping flimsy makeshift tents in the city’s fetid cen­tre for some­thing more sta­ble. But that didn’t mean they wanted to re­turn to their quake- rav­aged neigh­bour­hoods.

The In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion be­gan regis­tra­tion at the plaza Wed­nes­day, col­lect­ing peo­ple’s old ad­dresses in hopes that most can be re­set­tled rel­a­tively quickly in their old neigh­bour­hoods.

The camp is home to some 60,000 peo­ple and was cho­sen to be­gin regis­tra­tion be­cause about 45 per cent of its res­i­dents come from a sin­gle Port-au-Prince neigh­bour­hood, Turgeau, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Black­well, who is in­volved in co­or­di­nat­ing the plan.

Not every­one will be able to re­turn to their neigh­bour­hood, but re­lief of­fi­cials ex­pect to know within two weeks who can af­ter de­ter­min­ing which struc­tures are vi­able and which must be de­mol­ished, Black­well said.

Mark Turner, spokesman for the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion, said that “this is the big new strat­egy, our big push right now” — to de­con­gest over­crowded and un­san­i­tary camps. “Most peo­ple have some kind of tent or struc­ture. We want to be able to tell peo­ple, ’Just pack it up and take it home.”’

Haitian Pres­i­dent Rene Preval de­scribed the new plan Thurs­day to vis­it­ing Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva, say­ing the idea is to cre­ate small camps of 50-100 tents.

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