Fear grips Haiti as the state dessolves

2010-01-16 09:41

Machete-wielding thieves have begun roaming the streets of the

Haiti at night, residents said yesterday, fearful that it was a sign of brewing

violence in a nation already scarred by bloodshed.

“Men suddenly appeared with machetes to steal money” said Evelyne

Buino, a young beautician, describing a long, sleepless night in a neighborhood

not far from the ruined city center. “This is just the beginning.”

The Haitian capital, insecure at the best of times, is now devoid

of a functioning police force, bringing fears of a dystopian war of all against

all in the wake of Tuesday’s earthquake.

Buino’s immediate fear comes from a nearby prison, which contained

“the worst gangsters in the city.”

The prison’s large blue iron gate remains closed, but its cell

block was among the scores of buildings razed by the quake, allowing 4 000

surviving prisoners to run free.

“All the bandits of the city are now on the streets,” a local

police man said standing near the jail. “They are robbing people. It is a big


With President Rene Preval at the airport struggling to piece

together the remains of the state, desperate citizens tried to fill the


“Organize neighborhood committees to avoid chaos!” radio Metropole

implored residents, “to prevent people looting shops and houses.”

The station also called for volunteers to protect a company

distributing drinking water.

“People are hungry and thirsty. They are left on their own,” said

Leon Meleste, an Adventist sporting a white “New York” baseball cap.

“It is increasingly dangerous. The police don’t exist, people are

doing what they want.”

Patricia Etique, a Swiss citizen who divides her time between

Europe and Haiti, explained the dire predicament now facing many Haitians.

“People had reserves for a few days, but now they are dwindling.

They are afraid to go downtown in search of food because it has become too


“There is a lot of tension” in the center, she said, near the

National Palace, where thousands gathered to flee their devastated homes.

Kassana-Jean Chilove, a young mechanic who lost her daughter in the

earthquake, expressed fury at the government.

“The government is bluffing us,” she said. “There are millions of

dollars pouring into Haiti but we see nothing.

“At the head of the country a group of friends is divvying up the

money. We are going to be in the s**t for a long time.”

Before the earthquake, “we had bottled water or boiled it for

ourselves,” said nurse Marie-Jose Carneli, whose son Bryan-Michael began

screaming from under the rubble a few hours ago. “But now we have no gas or coal

and you can not sterilize it.

“I can not buy anything because my money is stuck in the rubble of

my house,” she said, throwing a plastic bottle angrily at an area were pigs were

scavenging for food.

Further down the street, an old lady sold plates of pasta. One

portion costs 100 gourds, around R18.50, 10 times more than before the


For many facing the desolation, there is only one option, said

Carneli, “people who have relatives in the provinces are fleeing the


But for thousands of others there are no options left.

In the bustling Marche en Fer (Iron Market) one of the Haitian

capital’s poorest neighborhoods, teenage looters were scuttling over the twisted

concrete debris, as crowds ignored piles of dead bodies on the street in their

desperate bid to unearth supplies.


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