Haitians Mark Anniversary Of Devastating Earthquake
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It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
We've been talking about and looking back at a disaster that happened one year ago today: the earthquake that flattened Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. Haiti was already the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. And the earthquake left much of the Caribbean nation in ruins. Today, Haitians are commemorating the tragedy. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Port-au-Prince and he joins us to talk about it.
JASON BEAUBIEN: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Jason, 200,000 people died on this day a year ago today, how are Haitians marking this tragedy?
BEAUBIEN: There were memorial services, both at churches - there's going to be a big gathering out in front of the national palace. Yesterday, President�Rene Preval spoke out at the mass grave. So many people are thinking about it. And, yes, it's certainly on everyone's mind here in Haiti today.
MONTAGNE; And, Jason, you arrived there and begin reporting right after the earthquake. Remind us what it was like a year ago.
BEAUBIEN: It was, you know, a vision of hell a year ago. And at first it wasn't even clear what exactly had happened. You know, we were getting these reports that there'd been this massive earthquake in Haiti. And then you got here, you got into the streets and there were dead bodies in the streets.
Almost the entire government was collapsed in terms of - physically, just physically the buildings were in the streets. Houses were down everywhere. And things fell apart. Buildings just sort of pulverized. And these cement buildings just turned to dust. And so there was dust covering everything.
And there were survivors, people who'd lost limbs. People who'd been crushed, who'd been hit by rubble, just lined up seeking health care wherever they could, just lying on mats in the street waiting for someone to come and give them help.
A year later, things are obviously much better than that. But that was a day that Haitians say that they're never going to forget.
MONTAGNE: And what about today? When you walk around the city, what do you see?
BEAUBIEN: You still absolutely see this earthquake everywhere you look when you walk around the city. That said, things are much better than they were January or February of 2010. The rubble has gotten cleared out of the streets so that you can move around.
The camps for the more than a million people that were displaced by this have gotten better in terms of there are actual latrines. There is water at them. They look much more permanent.
But that said, there's an awful lot of frustration. You know, just yesterday I was in one of the camps and talking to this one guy there. And he said he's feeling like things are getting worse, because with the political situation now and it being unclear who's going to be the next president, it's becoming else clear when he's going to get out of this camp.
So there's a lot of frustration here with where things are right now, with a sense that people want to be moving forward faster than things moved over this last year.
MONTAGNE: Well, yesterday, former President Bill Clinton joined Haiti's prime minister to announce a new investment in Haiti. They say it will create thousands of jobs. Have business and commerce come back to life at all since the quake?
BEAUBIEN: That was an amazing announcement, in part, because there's a need to move things out of Port-au-Prince. So much of the political social business activity of this country has been all centered here in the capital. And this new industrial park that they're announcing will move some of these jobs -about 20,000 jobs - to the north of the country. And that's part of why this is really significant.
In Port-au-Prince, commerce has come back in terms of a lot of the commerce that was always here, people doing things in the streets, people selling things. You know, right underneath some rubble that's about to - looks like it's about to fall over, you'll have women selling oranges and selling slippers and selling medicine. That kind of commerce has come back, but certainly, this is a difficult place to work. A lot of the infrastructure has been damaged and - you know, this country has a long, long way to go to getting back to normal.
MONTAGNE: And just very briefly, Jason, Haiti's recovery has been bedeviled by cholera and also political chaos. Is there any sense of optimism that things will get better any time soon?
BEAUBIEN: The big question is when will things get better? I think Haitians have confidence that, yes, things will get better, but the question is how long is that going to take.
MONTAGNE: Joining us from Port-au-Prince, NPR's Jason Beaubien, thanks very much.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.
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