Island of the damned


The country was  finally starting to see a glimmer of hope. Investors were slowly returning, the economy had grown by

2,5 per cent despite the global recession and billions of dollars of foreign debt had been cancelled.

Haiti’s infrastructure, which had been ravaged by the natural disasters and civil wars that characterise its past, was being rebuilt and the citizens were feeling positive about the future for the first time in decades.

But it took just one minute for the most powerful earthquake in recent history to extinguish that ray of light.

Haiti is now being called the island of the damned as the dead pile up, surgeons operate on the streets without anaesthetic, rampaging mobs loot whatever they can find and countless homeless people beg for water in the searing heat.

The Caribbean country has become the heart of hell – and all indications are the situation will get worse before it starts

to get better. The death toll could rise to 200 000 and medical officers and relief workers are overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

There are fears disease will grip the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince as bodies rot in the heat and makeshift hospitals are unable to cope with the number of injured being brought in around the clock.

There are too many bodies for mortuary officials to cope with and horrific images of corpses littering the streets have been beamed to a stunned world. One of the most wanted items in Port-au-Prince is toothpaste – survivors smear it on their upper lips to cloak the smell of death.

The quake that ripped Haiti apart on 12 January was Mother Nature at its worst.

Nothing and no one was spared. The presidential palace, once the pride of Port-au-Prince, has been left in ruins and the president, René Préval, is now sleeping in his car.

The UN building in the capital was also destroyed and several officials are among the dead. The Catholic cathedral collapsed, killing leading members of the clergy.

As dawn broke on the first Sunday after the disaster a few people gathered outside the destroyed cathedral to worship.

“God hasn’t forgotten us,” a congregant said. Yet many more have been asking, “What have we done to deserve punishment like this?”

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