Haiti's Cultural Capital Jacmel Damaged In Quake When the massive earthquake shook Haiti last week, the port city of Jacmel was largely cut off from the rest of the country. Jacmel is Haiti's fourth-largest city and its cultural capital. It was not as severely damaged as the capital Port-au-Prince but suffered its share of tragedy.
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Haiti's Cultural Capital Jacmel Damaged In Quake

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Haiti's Cultural Capital Jacmel Damaged In Quake

Haiti's Cultural Capital Jacmel Damaged In Quake

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.


And Im Steve Inskeep.

We are just beginning to get a glimpse of the scale of destruction beyond the capital of Haiti. This morning we'll travel outside Port-au-Prince to report on the aftermath of last weeks earthquake.

MONTAGNE: We'll hear from the Haitian city of Jacmel. Its on the southern coast. Its known for art and French colonial architecture, and as we heard this week on MORNING EDITION, tourism officials had been promoting its potential for future business.

NPRs Greg Allen went to see what remains of Jacmel now.

GREG ALLEN: The road to Jacmel is a narrow two-lane highway thats just reopened. As were driving, we see portions where the road is cracked and looked in danger of sliding down the mountains. Rock slides that block the road have been recently cleared but its still a hair-raising journey. After a few hours drive, we finally arrived at beach front town that until last week could be called charming.

Mr. WESHEL JEAN(ph): You see this (unintelligible) book called "Lonely Planet." You see my name on a page, on page 381. (Unintelligible) tourists around here. There was a lot of tourists but right now there is none.

ALLEN: Weshel Jean is a guide who seems to know everything and everybody in Jacmel, including most of the large expatriate community. People like Paul Baruch(ph).

Ms. PAUL BARUCH: Everything was moving. Do you know what it means, everything?

ALLEN: Baruch has lived with her husband, Murrow(ph), in Jacmel now for 30 years. She says she was sitting outside with friends when the earthquake hit.

Ms. BARUCH: And then suddenly we heard a noise coming from the (unintelligible). And then it start moving slowly and as the moving was stronger, then the noise was stronger until you could not hear anything but the noise. Ah, it was terrible.

ALLEN: The Baruchs live in Jacmels historic section near the waterfront -mostly two storey stone buildings with iron work and balconies reminiscent of New Orleans French quarter. Its now in ruins. Baruch says she doesnt know how shell pay for the repairs to her home. While we're talking Baruch, runs into a friend, Georgette Dujay(ph), who says she has decided to leave the country and move back to New York.

Ms. GEORGETTE DUJAY: Downtown is finished completely. So we need help to reconstruct everything, to rebuild Jacmel.

ALLEN: Residents believe their best hope lies in convincing architecture and historic preservation groups to come in and help rebuild and restore Jacmels treasures.

Unidentified Man: Watch your back.

ALLEN: Clean-up is already underway. Canadian troops arrived this week and immediately began using shovels to clear streets of rubble. Compared to Port-au-Prince, the devastation here is manageable. Except for the old section, individual buildings, not entire neighborhoods, were demolished in the earthquake. There were deaths here, but they're in the hundreds, not like Port-au-Prince, in the tens of thousands. Its a city where rebuilding seems possible and which is already starting to grow.

(Soundbite of vehicles)

ALLEN: At Jacmels bus station, vehicles arrive steadily from Port-au-Prince overloaded with passengers. Its a similar scene in provincial cities all over Haiti. Yolan Nelson(ph) says she is returning to her hometown because there really is no other choice.

Ms. YOLAN NELSON: (Through translator) Yeah. I think things are really dangerous in Port-au-Prince because people are dying. We are running for our lives because of the earthquake - because of the earthquake thats killing people in Port-au-Prince.

ALLEN: Where all the newcomers will live in Jacmel is another question. There are five encampments of people whose homes were destroyed or which were too dangerous to sleep in. On a visit to one camp, conditions seemed manageable and vastly better than the unsanitary and overcrowded camps in Port-au-Prince. While the numbers are smaller, fewer homes demolished, fewer dead and injured than in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel has its share of tragedy. Natasha Atien(ph) was part of a small crowd yesterday, examining a pile of rubble that used to be a school. I asked her how many students died.

Ms. NATASHA ATIEN: (Through translator) They lost their life. There are a lot(ph) - I really dont know because there are so many people who died inside.

ALLEN: Not far from the school, a crowd was gathered around the house where a search and rescue team was working. We stopped to see what was going on.

(Soundbite of baby crying)

ALLEN: Its an amazing scene here. We came across a rescue operation that pulled a baby out of a crushed house, seven days after the earthquake. The baby doesnt look like it could more than a month, two months old, and rescuers here are diapering it in the back of a pick-up truck.

How can one baby survive that long without water...

Mr. FRANCE LAMBERT(ph): Thats a miracle, man, a miracle.

ALLEN: France Lambert had it right. There seemed to be no other way to describe it. Its the kind of miracle Haiti will need a lot more of in the weeks and months ahead.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Jacmel.

INSKEEP: The ragged voice of NPRs Greg Allen, who's been on the ground for us since shortly after the earthquake.

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