Mourning replaces Haiti’s carnival

2010-02-16 15:02

HAITI’S raucous carnival parties will be replaced by mourning

today, with the annual celebration that brings thousands into the streets

cancelled after last month’s devastating earthquake.

Carnival day, always held the day before Lent begins and the

culmination of weeks of parties, arrives without the usual pulsing music and

colourful parades through the capital, its roads still littered with rubble and

collapsed buildings.

Haitians will, instead, be focused on solemn tributes to the more

than 200 000 people who died in early last month’s quake, which also left more

than a million remain homeless and living in squalid camps in and around


It comes after Haiti faced further catastrophe yesterday when a

school partially collapsed in the country’s north after a mudslide, killing four


The collapse occurred in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second city, located

along the Atlantic Coast, which was largely unaffected by the quake that left

the capital Port-au-Prince in ruins, a civil protection service official


It followed a rare positive sign earlier in the day with news that

commercial flights into the main Port-au-Prince airport were set to resume this

week for the first time since the disaster on the 12th of last month.

The civil protection official said rains caused a mudslide that led

to yesterday’s mid-afternoon school collapse.

“The accident was caused by four days of rain that caused a

mudslide,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not

authourized to give out the information.

He said the primary school partially collapsed, leaving “four dead

and two injured”. All were children, he said.

The government began allowing schools outside of areas hard-hit by

the earthquake to reopen at the start of this month.

The incident was a new blow to a country already struggling to

recover from last month’s 7,0-magnitude earthquake and signaled the dangers that

lie ahead with the coming rainy season.

Haiti has begun to see downpours ahead of the heavy rainy season,

which typically starts around May.

Officials have warned that the rainy season threatens to worsen

already squalid conditions in camps where an estimated 1,2 million people, made

homeless by the earthquake, now live in and around the capital.

As a result, aid groups have been seeking to distribute tarps for

up to 1 500 families per day. But more than a month after the quake, UN

officials said, only about 272 000 people have received materials to build


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew in yesterday to give a

boost to the relief effort.

Harper said Canada would set up a semi-permanent, US$11 million

operations base for the Haitian government, kitted-out with computer hardware

and communications systems.

The government is currently operating out of a concrete block

police building near the airport, with the National Palace and many government

ministries having collapsed in the quake.

  • Meanwhile, 10 Americans charged with

    kidnapping in Haiti could remain in jail until at least tomorrow after a power

    cut delayed a ruling on their fate, as their ex-advisor was probed separately

    for sex trafficking.

Prosecutor Joseph Manes Louis said yesterday he finished writing

his opinion on whether the Americans should be granted provisional release, but

a power outage kept it from being printed and delivered to the judge.

The Americans could now remain in detention until at least tomorrow

because today remains a holiday even though carnival festivities have been


A police investigation in El Salvador is also underway into a

Dominican who served as a legal advisor to the American group.

Jorge Puello, now back in the Dominican Republic, denied the

allegations of sex trafficking and said he had no contact with the Americans

prior to their arrest towards the end of last month.

Salvadoran police say Puello could actually be Jorge Torres

Orellana, accused of running an international sex trafficking ring that lured

women and girls from the Caribbean and Central America into prostitution with

bogus offers of modelling jobs.

“They are accusing me of something that I don’t even know myself,”

Puello told AFP.

“It could happen that two people could have the same name. Whatever

the case may be, I’m not afraid of anything.”

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