A bus is partially buried in rubble following the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: Marty Duren
Last week I was given the opportunity to travel with Helping Hands Foreign Missions
to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, providing logistical support to a medical team in the earthquake relief effort. It took two days to get there flying from Atlanta through Miami to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. We left early the morning of the second day for an 11 hour bus ride to Port-au-Prince. I was told the distance is 156 miles as the crow flies, but, since both capitals are coastal cities the road meanders close to the water on each of the trip, then strikes out over the interior and a couple of mountains, making the distance closer to 250 slow miles.
We began seeing destruction quite a ways outside Port-au-Prince, mostly smaller buildings here and there. Often it could not be determined whether the earthquake was to blame or time, decay and poor craftsmanship. Nevertheless, the closer we got to the center, the more intense and frequent the damage became. Entire multi-story buildings were pancaked spraying concrete blocks, dust and rubble onto the street or vacant lots. Cars damaged or crushed. Tents erected on sidewalks, in parks, on rubble and in one case on top of a smashed car.
A tent village rises in the distance behind a heavily damaged building west of Port-au-Prince. Photo: Marty Duren
Having ridden through many parts of Port-au-Prince over the course of four full days it appears that there is not a block where at least one building is not completely destroyed with more damaged. Large buildings, small buildings and everything in between. The Ministry of Justice building was leveled like a child’s building blocks. The facade and supports of the majestic capital building are crumbled. The back of the presidential palace is ruined with decades old timbers exposed. Piles of rubble 20 feet high cover an unknown number of corpses some of which may never be recovered.
The clean up effort moves at the pace of a snail with bunions. Over the course of four full days and several more hours we saw about four dump trucks in action and fewer track-hoes and tractors. Once we rode past a line of 25 or more dump trucks not in use. Logistically it remains a nightmare. We were told that food, water and medical help had yet to make it to Carrefour which was closer to the epicenter.
Some homes were destroyed in this Haitian valley outside Port-au-Prince. Photo: Marty Duren
Tomorrow I’ll be posting more pictures and writing about the medical work done last week.
A few of the available books on Haiti: