With fraction of rubble cleared, Haiti looks little changed since earthquake
The Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | From the dusty rock mounds lining the streets to a National Palace that looks as if it’s vomiting concrete, rubble is the most visible reminder of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
Rubble is everywhere: cracked slabs, busted-up cinder blocks, half-destroyed buildings that still spill bricks and pulverized concrete onto the sidewalks.
By some estimates, the Jan. 12 quake left about 33 million cubic yards of debris in Port-au-Prince — more than seven times the amount of concrete used to build the Hoover Dam. So far, only about 2 percent has been cleared, which means the city looks pretty much as it did a month after the quake.
Government officials and outside aid groups say rubble removal is the priority before Haiti can rebuild. But the reasons why so little has been cleared are complex.
Heavy equipment has to be shipped in by sea. Dump trucks have difficulty navigating narrow and mountainous dirt roads. An abysmal records system makes it hard for the government to determine who owns a dilapidated property. And there are few sites on which to dump the rubble, which often contains human remains.
Also, no single person in the Haitian government has been declared in charge of the rubble, prompting foreign nongovernmental organizations to take on the task themselves. The groups are often forced to fight for a small pool of available money and contracts — which in turn means the work is done piecemeal, with little coordination.
Projects funded by USAID and the Pentagon have spent more than $98.5 million to remove 1.2 million cubic yards of rubble.
“There’s not a master plan,” Eric Overvest, the Haiti director for the U.N. Development Program, said with a sigh. “After the earthquake, the first priority was clearing the roads. That was the easiest part.”
Leslie Voltaire, a Haitian architect, urban planner and presidential candidate, says his country needs a “rubble czar.”
“There should be one person in charge,” he said. “Resettlement has not even begun yet, and it can’t until the city has been cleared.”