Still Littered With Rubble, Haiti Stirs Slowly To Life Haiti's recovery from the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake is proceeding — but not fast enough for most. Aid workers say some of the almost 2 million people displaced by the quake will be living in shelters for another year or more. The task ahead remains huge and, in particular, a shortage of equipment is hindering demolition efforts.

Still Littered With Rubble, Haiti Stirs Slowly To Life

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In Haiti, the recovery from the January 12th earthquake is proceeding but slowly. Aid workers and government officials say most of the almost two million people displaced by the quake will be living in temporary shelters for another year or more.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports that outside the capital, the recovery is progressing faster but much remains to be done.

JASON BEAUBIEN: On Haiti's south coast, the city of Jacmel shook violently on January 12th. Parts of the city were completely destroyed. Other areas suffered damage to 20 to 30 percent of the buildings.

The impact of the quake is still visible. The torn-apart cement awning of a gas station leans ominously over the pumps. Cracked, abandoned buildings are all over Jacmel.

But crews have cleared most of the rubble out of the city's streets. Scooter taxis buzz busily around the town. Shops have reopened. Old ladies sweep the pavement in front of their modest homes.

Thomas Oriental runs a workshop that sells traditional papier-mache voodoo masks.

Mr. THOMAS ORIENTAL (Workshop Owner): (Through Translator) I've been badly affected. I lost my mother, my wife and a niece. I'm very traumatized, and at night if I don't drink, I can't sleep.

BEAUBIEN: Oriental's shop also partially collapsed, and he lost much of his merchandise. He now lives in a tent in the parking lot of what used to be the Agriculture Ministry.

Life for him looks pretty dismal, but it actually has improved significantly since the weeks after the disaster. The road has reopened between Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. Some tourists mainly foreign aid workers and missionaries have started to return. At least there's some business. He's frustrated with the slow pace of recovery, but he says that things are improving in Jacmel.

The mayor says things have improved so much that he's already asking all the refugees from Port-au-Prince to go home.

Mayor EDO ZENNY (Jacmel, Haiti): (Speaking foreign language).

BEAUBIEN: Jacmel Mayor Edo Zenny said the main problem right now in his city is the garbage from all the people who fled Port-au-Prince after the quake. Most are still living in the streets. He says the people from the capital dump trash at the curbs, and it's become impossible to keep the city clean.

In a public speech a few days earlier, Zenny declared that all these outsiders should go home.

Mayor ZENNY: (Through translator) The majority of them are still here. We cannot push them out. But we are going to find a way to be a nuisance to them so that they leave.

BEAUBIEN: Two months ago, he wouldn't have made such a statement. In a way, his demand shows how this crisis is evolving, how Haiti is moving back toward something like normal.

(Soundbite of heavy equipment truck)

Across the quake-ravaged parts of Haiti, one of the main challenges is still the demolition of buildings. So if you happen to be a demolition man, Haiti right now is the place to be.

Mr. DALE LAWSON (Heavy Equipment Manager, CHF): Like these places, we took out all these places along this road.

BEAUBIEN: Dale Lawson is the heavy equipment manager for CHF in Haiti. Despite being ex-Canadian army, he is wearing a U.S. Marines T-shirt.

Lawson oversees several crews that are under contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to clear the rubble in the coastal city of Leogane.

Walking through the valleys of debris of what used to be Main Street, Lawson says this whole area needs to be demolished.

Mr. LAWSON: You can't move forward when your place looks like this, you know what I mean? There's no way.

BEAUBIEN: Leogane is 18 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. It was the epicenter of the quake. Most of the city was destroyed.

Watching a yellow Caterpillar scramble over a pile of shattered concrete that used to be a school, Lawson says his team can remove a five-story building in about a day and a half. Caterpillar excavators on steel treads are their main demolition tool.

Mr. LAWSON: Usually there is we have four. We start in each corner. But there wasn't enough room here to be able to do that. So we started with two this morning. We knocked it down. Then we left one in here, one loader, five dump trucks and just take it away.

BEAUBIEN: In April, CHF demolished 30 schools in Leogane in less than three weeks. Lawson has trained Haitians to run the excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks. And he says he could clear even more buildings if he could just get more heavy equipment.

Mr. LAWSON: We're not getting equipment the way we should. There should be a lot more equipment in here.

BEAUBIEN: In the capital, demolition crews are also constantly clearing the rubble. Bulldozers knock down a school here, a bank there. The French military has heavy equipment rumbling throughout downtown Port-au-Prince.

But the task of rubble removal in the capital is so large that the backhoes are like bugs tearing at a giant crumpled sandcastle. They clear a plot, but they're still dwarfed by the wreckage around them.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

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