Haiti Weathers Earthquake, Tropical Storm In Same Week : Consider This from NPR Just weeks after the shock of a presidential assassination, Haiti was hit by a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday. The death toll is nearing 2,000 — and still rising — while thousands more are injured and homeless.

Haiti's last major earthquake was in 2010. It killed an estimated 200,000 people and injured 300,000 more. This week's quake struck farther from major population centers, but that's made search and rescue efforts challenging.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Haiti where Tropical Storm Grace has made matters even worse.

And Haiti's ambassador to the U.S. Bocchit Edmond tells NPR's Ailsa Chang what the country needs now.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment that will help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

Email us at considerthis@npr.org.

How Haiti Is Weathering Two Natural Disasters At Once

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It was barely a month ago since Haiti's president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated in his home, and the country has been thrust into another crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The quake rocked residents of southwestern Haiti into the streets. Buildings and homes...

CORNISH: On Saturday, Haiti was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck near the southwestern part of the island. As of Tuesday, the death toll was at nearly 2,000. It's likely to continue to rise.

JEAN FANFAN VITAL: (Speaking non-English language spoken).

CORNISH: Jean Fanfan Vital is a 38-year-old business owner in Selon. He lost his baby in the disaster.

VITAL: (Through interpreter) My child is dead. My father was carrying him. And as they passed by the building, some debris fell down and landed on them. The child was so young, only 4 months. And maybe that's the only reason why he's dead. He was so young.

CORNISH: His father was treated in a local hospital. He survived.

JERRY CHANDLER: We have a lot of trauma patients that are still not attended.

CORNISH: Jerry Chandler is the head of the Office of Civil Protection for Haiti. He told NPR earlier this week that the first priority is getting medical care for people injured in building collapses.

CHANDLER: A lot of the hospitals that are in the region that was affected are either overrun or affected themselves structurally. So they are limited in terms of capacity, in terms of service that they can provide.

CORNISH: This tragedy also presents a test for the newly installed prime minister, Ariel Henry. He's vowed that the government would not repeat the same mistakes that were made after the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people. But the response so far has been frustrating to many Haitians, including Vital. That's the father who lost his child.

VITAL: (Through interpreter) I wish the state would come here and bring heavy equipment to help remove the floor of the building that was damaged. All around this area, you can find a lot of houses that have been damaged. It's not only my house. We need the state to come here.

CORNISH: CONSIDER THIS. Haiti's second devastating earthquake in 11 years has left the country reeling, and an ensuing tropical storm only made matters worse. Coming up, the country's ambassador tells NPR what his people need before it's too late.


CORNISH: From NPR, I'm Audie Cornish. It's Wednesday, August 18.

It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. Haiti's last major earthquake was in 2010, and it was devastating. It killed an estimated 200,000 people. It injured 300,000 more. This week's earthquake in Haiti, it was twice as powerful. But before the last decade, Haiti had been relatively free of earthquakes for centuries.

GEOFF ABERS: This is a fault segment that has been really quiet for about the last 200 years.

CORNISH: Geophysicist Geoff Abers spoke to NPR back in 2010.

ABERS: Most of the larger known earthquakes were back in the 1700s.

CORNISH: Abers said, back then, Haitians didn't think of themselves as living in earthquake country, even though a fault line runs through the country's most populous areas, including the capital, Port-au-Prince. It's the same fault that caused Saturday's quake as well. That's according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Back in 2010, NPR also spoke with a man who was likely Haiti's only earthquake engineer at the time, Pierre Fouche.

PIERRE FOUCHE: Many of the people, they are doing whatever that they want. They can rebuild whatever that they want.

CORNISH: Fouche said many of the deaths were due to poorly constructed buildings.

FOUCHE: In the country, they don't - we do not even have, like, a national building code, which is very sad.

CORNISH: And he said even the sturdiest concrete buildings, the ones reinforced with steel rods, well, they're not built to handle the side-to-side lateral forces, or loading, of an earthquake.

FOUCHE: For lateral loading, you need to have, like, special construction. But in many cases, they are not designed not even for, like, current daily loading.

CORNISH: One difference between 2010 and now is that this week's quake struck farther away from Port-au-Prince, the country's biggest city. Fewer buildings will suffer serious damage. And yet tens of thousands of Haitians still live in homes damaged or destroyed by the earthquake, homes that were built of concrete and cinderblock to withstand a different type of threat - hurricanes. And as we mentioned, the hardest-hit areas have also been pummeled by rain and winds from Tropical Storm Grace. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Haiti. He's been reporting from outside the city of Les Cayes.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: For the first two nights after the earthquake, many residents here in the town of Coteaux slept in the main street. Fifty-seven-year-old Kettly Rosier is one of them.

KETTLY ROSIER: (Through interpreter) We cannot stay inside because all the house have been cracked. And we are very afraid, and we go outside.

BEAUBIEN: Rains from Tropical Depression Grace pounded the area. Fierce winds whipped the palm trees from side to side and tore at tin roofs as the weather system intensified into a tropical storm. Rosier and several of her neighbors took shelter in a house that had minimal damage from the quake.

ROSIER: (Speaking Haitian Creole).

BEAUBIEN: She says the situation here now is worse than when Hurricane Matthew struck as a Category 4 hurricane in 2016. At least then people's homes hadn't all just been damaged by an earthquake. Rosier is so terrified to go inside her house that she's moved her kitchen to a tin shack outside.

She's got a small charcoal stove. It's not even a stove. It's a grill to cook on. And she's got pots and pans here on the floor, a chopping block over here. Yeah, it's very, very basic.

Rosier says she hopes to repair her house so she can at least move back in, but she doesn't know how she's going to pay to do that.

ROSIER: (Through interpreter) I don't know what's going to happen. And every night, I have to go to the house of my friend to sleep. She already have so much people inside the room. I don't know how many days I will be in this situation.

BEAUBIEN: This situation is playing out throughout this part of Haiti right now. UNICEF estimates that more than 84,000 houses were damaged or destroyed in the quake and 1.2 million Haitians have been affected by the disaster. Near an outdoor market in Les Cayes, hundreds of people were erecting makeshift shelters yesterday, ahead of the arrival of the storm. Noisil Smil, a father of seven, was building a shelter out of strips of plastic sheeting he'd gathered. He was lashing the plastic to a frame of wooden sticks with wire from the remnants of a steel-belted radial tire.

And in terms of food, he's just got a bowl of rice with a lot of flies buzzing around it. Does he have more food than that or...

NOISIL SMIL: (Through interpreter) It's all that I have.

BEAUBIEN: Images taken today of the field where Smil was setting up camp show the settlement destroyed, the ground a flooded, muddy mess, shelters shredded by the wind. The storm didn't just upend people's lives again here. It also forced many aid agencies to suspend operations and delay shipments of relief supplies into the region.

AKIM KIKONDA: Yeah, this situation is really bad. People are suffering. They've lost their houses. Hospitals are overwhelmed.

BEAUBIEN: That's Akim Kikonda, the head of Catholic Relief Services in Haiti.

KIKONDA: Rain is still falling, so we really need tarps and tents so that people can be protected from the rain and from the sun.

BEAUBIEN: Aid agencies are mobilizing what's expected to be a massive relief operation. But so far, very little of that aid has actually arrived. Kikonda says efforts to get supplies into the area have been hampered by blocked roads, bureaucratic hurdles and now Tropical Storm Grace. One bit of good news is that rains are expected to stop for the next couple of days, allowing people to dry out and for aid groups to ramp up their operations.


CORNISH: NPR correspondent Jason Beaubien.

With the rain over, at least for now, and aid groups ramping up operations, search and rescue efforts can move faster. For more on those efforts and where the country goes from here, Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, spoke to NPR's Ailsa Chang.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: So I just want to start by first asking you how the past few days have been for you seeing all that's happening in your country right now.

BOCCHIT EDMOND: Yeah, it seems that we can't catch a break. So another...

CHANG: Yeah.

EDMOND: ...Earthquake in Haiti, this time hitting the southern part of Haiti and where those with very remote areas difficult to access. And added to that, we have that tropical depression depositing a lot of water on the same area. And that makes difficult the work of the search and rescue workers.

CHANG: Right. What can you tell us at this point about how the search and rescue efforts are going, given the storm?

EDMOND: I think that's resumed. It has resumed. They are trying to - they are doing their best. And so far, they have not been lucky yet to get some survivor. But I believe they are working very hard to continue the search.

CHANG: Well, all of this, of course, has come just as your new prime minister, Ariel Henry, is trying to organize an election to elect a new president. Let me ask you, given that there has been so much instability in your country the last couple months, how equipped do you think Haiti's government is to respond to this earthquake? Because our NPR colleague, Jason Beaubien, who is in Haiti right now, he's been hearing frustrations from people who say that so little aid has reached the quake zone.

EDMOND: That's the issue. I mean, this is very important to understand, for your - for your audience to understand. Earthquake is not something you can, you know, expect that's coming. You know that we - Haiti sits on a fault. But at the same time, we need to remember that the country's - there are already some lack of resources. It might take a little time.

I understand the frustration of my fellow citizens. But the fact of the matter is most of them, most of those areas are very remote areas. We had access yesterday. We are very happy that the United States, I believe, brought eight helicopters down there from the Department of Defense and Southern Command in Miami. I think it's a good gesture. And that will certainly help us to reach those people...

CHANG: Right.

EDMOND: ...And to assure of the distribution of this assistance.

CHANG: But if I may, I mean, you have said that you hope not to see a repeat of the mistakes that happened after the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti, when a lot of aid just never reached the people who needed the aid. So what is being done differently this time around to avoid that, to make sure that aid does get to people in time?

EDMOND: Yeah. That's why the Ministry of Planning from the government asking all the NGOs (unintelligible) that wish to participate in the rescue effort to register because the issue in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake - everybody came out at the same time. We were flooded with NGOs. We couldn't organize anything. And that's why we are trying to coordinate with all NGOs - local, international - to make sure that we direct them where they should go because when everybody wants to go to one place, that's why you will hear voices saying that we have been victim. We haven't received anything because most of the time, we tend to focus on one place or the big city and forget the rural areas.

CHANG: You have mentioned the U.S. has sent some aid, some search and rescue teams to Haiti. What other kind of help would you like to see from the U.S. at this point?

EDMOND: I believe there is a very important thing that we need now is the medical facility. There are two hospitals - makeshift hospital are being put together later before the end of this week so they can help in the treatment and the caregiving to those victims. So it's very important because now we need much more medical attention, medical equipment to strengthen the capacity of those small hospital and the nurses and doctors.


CORNISH: Bocchit Edmond - he's Haiti's ambassador to the U.S.



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