Posted: September 10, 2010 in Uncategorized



Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 10:44 pm
By TAMARA LUSH Associated Press Writer |
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — From the dusty rock mounds lining the streets to a
National Palace which looks like it’s vomiting concrete from its core, rubble is
one of the most visible reminders of the Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
Rubble is everywhere in this capital city: cracked slabs, busted-up cinder
blocks, half-destroyed buildings that still spill bricks and pulverized concrete
on the sidewalks. Some places look as though they have been 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 meters of debris in
Port-au-Prince — more than seven times the amount of concrete used to build the
Hoover Dam. So far, only about two percent has been cleared, which means the
city looks pretty much as it did a month after the Jan. 12 quake.
Government officials and outside aid groups say rubble removal is the priority
before Haiti can rebuild. But 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
Projects funded by USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense have spent more than
$98.5 million to remove 882,000 cubic meters of rubble. Because all the
equipment needs to be shipped to Haiti, and because land to dump the debris is
scarce and expensive, the cost is high.
Also, no single person in the Haitian government has been declared in charge of
the rubble.
This means foreign NGOs have taken on the rubble removal task themselves, often
fighting for a small pool of available money and contracts — which in turn means
the work is done piecemeal, with little coordination.
"There’s not a master plan," sighed Eric Overvest, country director for the U.N.
Development Program. "After the earthquake, the first priority was clearing the
roads. That was the easiest part."
Overvest said the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission — which was created after
the earthquake to coordinate billions of dollars in aid — has approved a $17
million plan to clear rubble from six neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. The six
neighborhoods have not yet been selected, he added, and it’s unclear when debris
will be removed from other areas.
Leslie Voltaire, a Haitian architect, urban planner and presidential candidate,
says his country needs a "rubble czar."
"Everybody is passing the blame on why things haven’t happened yet," he said.
"There should be one person in charge. Resettlement has not even begun yet, and
it can’t until the city has been cleared."
Voltaire maintains that there are enough crushers, dump trucks and other heavy
equipment for the job; others say that more machinery is needed. But everyone
agrees that recovery will take decades — and the slower the rubble removal, the
longer the recovery.
Most Haitians are simply living with the rubble, working and walking around it.
After a while, the gray heaps and cockeyed buildings just blend into the
tattered background of the city.
"It will take many, many years to fix," acknowledges Overvest. "We can’t just go
with wheelbarrows to remove it."
But that’s exactly what some Haitians are doing: using shovels and wheelbarrows
to clear properties — a Sisyphean task if there ever was one.
"Personally, I don’t think Port-au-Prince will ever be cleared," shrugged
47-year-old Yvon Clerisier, an artist who was working a temporary job clearing
rubble with a rusty shovel for a private homeowner on a recent summer day. He
wore torn jeans, a sweaty T-shirt and sandals, and was covered in a fine dust.
Clerisier was one of a dozen men in his crew; in 100-plus degree heat. The
property owner, Gregory Antoine, said he paid the crew $1,200 for three weeks of
"People want to work," Antoine said. "If you get a good organization to put
people to work and give them direction, things will get done. But right now,
nothing is getting done."
It’s not for lack of trying. The non-profit CHF International spent about $5
million of USAID money on heavy machinery and paying Haitians to remove rubble
from specific sites.
Dan Strode was the rubble removal operations manager for CHF for three months;
some dubbed him "the rubble guy" because of his enthusiasm for the job.
"Rubble isn’t sexy," the Californian admits. "And clearing it is not as simple
as people think."
Strode’s big worry: that debris won’t be cleared fast enough and that the piles
of rocks and garbage and dirt will be overtaken by tropical growth.
"If we don’t clear it, what we will leave behind is something that is worse than
before," said Strode. "If you come back in a year, and the rubble hasn’t been
cleared, it will be grown over, subject to landslides and unstable."
Strode, who coordinated the removal of 220,000 cubic meters of material in three
months, said one acute problem emerged when he tried to demolish buildings.
Property records were either destroyed in the quake or never existed at all —
and without an owner’s consent, it was difficult to remove the debris. Another
problem: Strode would often receive approval to demolish, say, a public building
such as a hospital or a school — but nearby homes would be put at risk.
"You cannot wantonly go in and demolish," he said. "There’s a liability issue."
Strode told of a multistory hospital that had pancaked; an elderly woman living
precariously close to the debris was scared that the hospital demolition would
also take down her home.
"She should be scared," Strode said. "This is dangerous stuff."
Strode is no longer doing rubble removal. The grant money ran out, and has not
yet been renewed.
Another hurdle: dumping the debris.
While many private landowners and others are dumping the rubble in the streets,
canals or countryside, there’s only one place in all of Haiti where NGOs using
U.S. money can take contaminated rubble. It is an approved and environmentally
surveyed site.
"Not all rubble is the same," said Michael Zamba, the spokesman for the Pan
American Development Foundation. "There’s a lot of contaminated rubble with
human remains in it. It can’t go in a standard landfill."
Zamba points out that before the earthquake, Haiti was the least developed
country in the hemisphere — so it’s not that surprising that recovery is slow.
"Haiti is a really expensive place to work — you have to ship in gas, vehicles,
people," he said. "But you clean up the rubble in a neighborhood, and it
transforms it. Life comes back."
Associated Press writer Evens Sanon contributed to this report.
Posted in World on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 10:44 pm

haiti earthquake-1243881870.grid-6x2





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