Anxiety Fills Reviving Port-Au-Prince Streets

The streets of Port-au-Prince seem livelier — a frenzy of sorts has taken over the devastated city.

Locals are now selling their wares along busy sidewalks, and traffic is heavy. A 20-minute trip before the earthquake 11 days ago can now take up to an hour and a half or more. There is more competition on the roads, because several gas stations are now open. There's also less road; big piles of rubble often take up to half of the street.

  • U.S. Marines unload a Navy Sea Stallion helicopter with relief supplies near the town of Leogane on Saturday. Aid is beginning to arrive with more frequency nearly two weeks after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake first struck.
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    U.S. Marines unload a Navy Sea Stallion helicopter with relief supplies near the town of Leogane on Saturday. Aid is beginning to arrive with more frequency nearly two weeks after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake first struck.
    Photos by David Gilkey/NPR
  • One of the primary obstacles that delayed relief efforts immediately following the quake was providing necessary security to deliver aid.
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    One of the primary obstacles that delayed relief efforts immediately following the quake was providing necessary security to deliver aid.
  • Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne load patients on a Navy helicopter in Port-au-Prince on Saturday. Some of the injured are being transported to the USNS Comfort medical treatment ship off Haiti's shore.
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    Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne load patients on a Navy helicopter in Port-au-Prince on Saturday. Some of the injured are being transported to the USNS Comfort medical treatment ship off Haiti's shore.
  • Looting, which has posed a major security issue since the earthquake, has been reduced under police control. Haitians wait in line for rations of food and water on Friday.
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    Looting, which has posed a major security issue since the earthquake, has been reduced under police control. Haitians wait in line for rations of food and water on Friday.
  • Peacekeepers deliver humanitarian rations in Port-au-Prince.
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    Peacekeepers deliver humanitarian rations in Port-au-Prince.
  • Relief supplies have begun arriving in Port-au-Prince with more frequency, and the main hospital is now running with the help of foreign doctors.
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    Relief supplies have begun arriving in Port-au-Prince with more frequency, and the main hospital is now running with the help of foreign doctors.
  • Haitians stand in line as peacekeepers from the United Nations World Food Program distribute water and humanitarian rations in front of the National Palace.
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    Haitians stand in line as peacekeepers from the United Nations World Food Program distribute water and humanitarian rations in front of the National Palace.
  • The Haitian government plans to move 400,000 earthquake victims from the shattered capital to camps in outlying areas in the coming weeks to prevent the spread of disease.
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    The Haitian government plans to move 400,000 earthquake victims from the shattered capital to camps in outlying areas in the coming weeks to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Diseases could sweep quickly through crowded makeshift camps — where homeless families have little or no sanitation.
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    Diseases could sweep quickly through crowded makeshift camps — where homeless families have little or no sanitation.

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As we drove around the battered capital, we spotted people selling all kinds of stuff — both on sidewalks and in small mom-and-pop shops; offerings range from fresh produce to clothing and paintings.

But this activity can be deceiving, because nothing is normal here yet. I'm working with NPR correspondent John Burnett, and everywhere we go, we attract crowds eager to share their frustrations.

We came across an open-air market that started doing business Saturday. Locals were selling fresh vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, green peppers, plantains and pineapples, as well as staples like dry fish, rice, flour and coal.

Benita Joseph was selling ketchup, mayonnaise and canned milk. She was angry. She said the government had not come by to check on residents or offer food since the quake.

Joseph doesn't have a home anymore, and she's sleeping at the market. Her only possessions are the clothes she's wearing and the goods she's selling. But when she runs out of goods and money, she said, "I don't know what I'll do."

Meanwhile, injured Haitians continue to flood hospitals — people kept lining up for treatment at a field hospital set up by Cuban doctors. Clenette Cermot was among them. She screamed in agonizing pain as doctors cleaned her infected ankle wounds. The operating and treatment room are outdoors — both for practicality and for safety as aftershocks continue to terrify patients.

In one busy area, people started running and screaming when they heard the sound of a microbus crashing against a utility pole. Even when some semblance of normalcy seems to spread in the city, aftershocks continue to be a scary reminder of loss and pain. Memories are fresh, and it will be a long time before victims of this quake recover from the trauma.

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