AILSA CHANG, HOST:
An earthquake ravaged areas of Haiti. Government workers are starting to use heavy equipment to demolish collapsed buildings where it's clear no more survivors will be found.
(SOUNDBITE OF DEMOLITION AMBIENCE)
CHANG: Tens of thousands of homes in the southern part of the Caribbean nation were damaged or destroyed in Saturday's 7.2-magnitude quake. The death toll is at least 1,400 now and is expected to rise. NPR's Jason Beaubien is just outside Les Cayes, one of the hardest-hit cities in the country.
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So what's the situation like in the part of Haiti where you are right now?
BEAUBIEN: You know, as you move through Les Cayes, there seem to be three situations. You know, some places, homes and businesses just look absolutely fine. Then you've got buildings that are damaged, where people are clearing rubble and trying to move debris out of their yards. And then you've got houses that are just totally collapsed altogether and are now just heaps of cinder blocks and splintered wooden beams. One of the places that falls into that third category is the Hotel Le Manguier, where the owner, a local politician - he died in the quake. And I was talking with Felix Arold Mathieu, a municipal engineer who was overseeing the demolition of the front part of that hotel.
FELIX AROLD MATHIEU: (Speaking French).
BEAUBIEN: He's saying parts of the city have lots and lots of problems. They don't have drinking water. Sewer lines are destroyed. Many buildings have cracks in them. He's saying they may look safe, but actually, they're not. And he says the reconstruction is going to be a huge task.
CHANG: I mean, I also can't imagine how worried people must be about homes that are still standing and whether they will stay standing.
BEAUBIEN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there have been some powerful aftershocks. And many people that I was talking to today are saying that they're sleeping outside since Saturday. You see tents on some people's roofs, others in people's yards. In some places, there were mattresses on top of piles of rubble, where people had clearly been sleeping, out in their yards. And then there are people who have left their homes entirely. We came across this encampment of buildings. Calling them buildings is really an exaggeration. And it was on the edge of town in an outdoor market, and people were constructing these tiny shacks. I met this woman, Destin Marie Suzette, and she was there with seven of her family members.
DESTIN MARIE SUZETTE: (Speaking French).
BEAUBIEN: She says that she prefers to stay out here at the market, and she feels safer than being inside a building, where walls might collapse in on her and her family. You know, it looks like there were about a couple hundred people who'd already moved into this camp, and they were making shelters out of just the flimsiest of materials, like plastic that would be used to wrap industrial material and bed sheets and bits of canvas. But it was not proper tarps at all. And most of these looked like they could just blow away in the wind.
CHANG: I mean, winds are coming, right? Tropical depression Grace is bearing down on that part of Haiti right now. Isn't that the case?
BEAUBIEN: Absolutely. The winds are actually already here. We're already getting sort of the first bands of rain coming in with this storm, so we are expecting even more trouble for people here as this storm comes right over the part of Haiti that's been hardest hit by this quake.
CHANG: And Jason, what about aid? Are you seeing aid moving into the area and actually getting distributed now?
BEAUBIEN: You know, in all honesty, no, we're not seeing that yet. Maybe it's a little too early to be expecting that, but we aren't seeing aid being delivered. And locals aren't seeing it either. And we heard from a lot of people today, we need help. And they're saying that so far, they aren't getting it.
CHANG: That is NPR's Jason Beaubien speaking to us from Les Cayes, one of the hardest-hit cities in Haiti.
Thank you, Jason.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome, Ailsa.
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