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Flames, Tears In Forsaken Part Of Port-au-Prince

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Flames, Tears In Forsaken Part Of Port-au-Prince

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Flames, Tears In Forsaken Part Of Port-au-Prince

Flames, Tears In Forsaken Part Of Port-au-Prince

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  • The hilltop Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Fort National was heavily damaged by the Jan. 12 earthquake. Devarieu Stanley, like many of his neighbors, had to recover the bodies of loved ones himself. He lost his mother, his child and his nephew.
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    The hilltop Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Fort National was heavily damaged by the Jan. 12 earthquake. Devarieu Stanley, like many of his neighbors, had to recover the bodies of loved ones himself. He lost his mother, his child and his nephew.
    All photos by Valentina Pasquali
  • A man walks in the rubble of a house where bodies are being burned. Fort National residents search for anything salvageable amid the debris.
    Hide caption
    A man walks in the rubble of a house where bodies are being burned. Fort National residents search for anything salvageable amid the debris.
  • Max Paul sits in his makeshift camp. Paul, a pastor at the Church of God, lost his wife and six other people who lived in his house.
    Hide caption
    Max Paul sits in his makeshift camp. Paul, a pastor at the Church of God, lost his wife and six other people who lived in his house.
  • With nobody coming to collect trash, people burn it on the side of the street.
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    With nobody coming to collect trash, people burn it on the side of the street.
  • Few families in the Fort National neighborhood survived the earthquake together. Syclear Jeanty (from left), Maudelyn Jean-Louis and Yvenel Jacques mourn lost family members.
    Hide caption
    Few families in the Fort National neighborhood survived the earthquake together. Syclear Jeanty (from left), Maudelyn Jean-Louis and Yvenel Jacques mourn lost family members.
  • Many people from the Fort National area whose homes were destroyed sleep in a camp on the slope of a hill.
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    Many people from the Fort National area whose homes were destroyed sleep in a camp on the slope of a hill.
  • The camp is packed with several hundred men, women and children during the day. But more than 1,000 people sleep there at night. Residents say the camp has received water deliveries, but no food aid.
    Hide caption
    The camp is packed with several hundred men, women and children during the day. But more than 1,000 people sleep there at night. Residents say the camp has received water deliveries, but no food aid.
  • Children play amid the devastation around them.
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    Children play amid the devastation around them.
  • In this hilltop neighborhood, many bodies are still trapped in the debris.
    Hide caption
    In this hilltop neighborhood, many bodies are still trapped in the debris.

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In much of Port-au-Prince, officials and relief agencies are focused on helping the tens of thousands of people in survivors' camps. But there are still many pockets of the city that have seen little aid, including the neighborhood of Fort National, one of the worst-hit districts in the capital.

Suffrin Eddy, a mortician and political activist who has lived in the neighborhood all his life, says although Fort National is close to the center of Port-au-Prince, its place on a hilltop seems to have made it invisible to government officials and aid workers.

There are many streets where every house has fallen. Nearly three weeks after the disaster, people spend their days searching for the bodies of loved ones.

Eddy says the neighborhood has received water deliveries, but there has been no food aid at all.

The area is named for a historic fortress that overlooked the old town. It served as a police station and U.N. post but was leveled by the Jan. 12 quake. The slopes of the hill are white with the debris of hundreds of houses that crumbled and slid when the earthquake struck.

Burning Bodies

On a recent afternoon, a cluster of people is gathered near a fire crackling in a pit dug into the buckled concrete of a fallen roof. A small man in a floppy hat stands guard near the blaze.

"This is my mother," he tells an interpreter. "My mother is being burned here."

The man, Devarieu Stanley, says he finally found his mother's body after digging for several days in the wreckage. He burned her body where she lay, in the ruins of her kitchen.

Stanley says he burned the body of his little boy just two days before. He is still searching for the body of a nephew.

Suffrin Eddy, a mortician and political activist i

Suffrin Eddy, a mortician and political activist, has lived in the Fort National neighborhood all his life. Here, he climbed a toppled roof to show where two people were trapped alive. They were able to call out on their cell phones, he says, but there was no way to move the sheet of concrete, and after two days the phone calls stopped. Valentina Pasquali for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Valentina Pasquali for NPR
Suffrin Eddy, a mortician and political activist

Suffrin Eddy, a mortician and political activist, has lived in the Fort National neighborhood all his life. Here, he climbed a toppled roof to show where two people were trapped alive. They were able to call out on their cell phones, he says, but there was no way to move the sheet of concrete, and after two days the phone calls stopped.

Valentina Pasquali for NPR

It is a common story from the survivors in Fort National. Some of their loved ones are buried in mass graves. Other bodies are burned, especially if they can't be fully extracted from the rubble.

People fear that the bodies will be eaten by rats or dogs, and many fear that the stench of dead bodies can cause illness. Health officials say that is not true, but many people believe it, and it adds to their anxiety and pain.

Stanley is close to tears as he tells his story. "My child," he says, pointing to a charred spot on the ground. "I put fire on my child right here."

A dozen or so people gather around to tell similar stories.

"My son," says Syclear Jeanty. "He was 25." Another man, Yvenel Jacques, mourns for his little boy, saying over and over, "Tyson Jacques. His name was Tyson Jacques."

Mourning The Lost

A fallen school building is thought to have buried the bodies of nearly 20 children and their teacher, but nobody knows for sure.

Many people sleep in a makeshift camp at the foot of the hill, but spend their days next to their fallen houses, looking for loved ones and any possessions they can retrieve.

Others take refuge in a sloping yard just a block from the top of the hill.

The yard seems overflowing with a few hundred men, women and children, but Eddy says more than 1,000 people come here to sleep at night.

He says residents in the camp are pooling what money they have and buying food at inflated prices from vendors on the street.

A man with graying hair sits at the upper end of the camp. His name is Max Paul, and he's one of the pastors at the Church of God in the Poste Marchant area at the bottom of the hill.

His eyes are swollen with fatigue and grief. His wife was killed along with six other people in his house, he says.

When asked what he tells his church members when they ask why such things happen, he shakes his head. "It's the will of God," he says. "It's the will of God. If God allows this to happen, it is because we human beings are too wicked."

Paul says his faith is stronger than ever. When asked if the disaster calls to mind the biblical story of Job, he gives an emphatic "Yes! God has given. God has taken away. May the name of the Lord be blessed."

During the daylight hours, when people of the Fort National area are searching the debris, they don't have much time to speculate on why this happened.

But when asked when they'll get a chance to mourn for their loved ones, one man replied: "We cry a lot. Every day. Every single day."

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