Haiti to relocate 400,000 homeless

Government to house thousands of earthquake survivors in tent villages outside capital.

    Tens of thousands of people rendered homeless by the earthquake are living in tent cities [AFP]

    Haiti's government has said it will move about 400,000 homeless people to new villages to be built outside Port-au-Prince, the capital, after between one million and 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless by last week's earthquake.

    Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, Haiti's interior minister, said that in the first wave the government would move 100,000 refugees to tent villages of 10,000 each near the town of Croix Des Bouquets, north of Port-au-Prince.

    The capital's seaport has now been repaired enough to reopen for limited aid shipments, with a Dutch naval vessel unloading pallets of water, juice and shelf-stable milk onto trucks at the pier.

    Aid is becoming more plentiful but is still inadequate to feed and shelter the masses left without homes and those injured by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed as many as 200,000 people on January 12.

    Transitional camp

    Brazilian UN peacekeepers have begun levelling land in Croix des Bouquets to set up a transitional tent camp at a site where the Inter-American Development Bank planned to help build permanent houses for 30,000 people.

    The initiative would let displaced Haitians help build their own new homes under a food-for-work scheme, allowing them to stay close to the area where they had made a living.

    special report
    Special Report: Haiti earthquake

    Many are currently jammed into haphazard, open-air camps with no latrines, sleeping outdoors because their homes were destroyed or out of fear that aftershocks would bring down more buildings.

    Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from one camp in Cazeau in Port-au-Prince, said: "There is rubbish on the ground, no running water, no electricity and the people here have had no food or water in over a week now.

    "There has been no aid. We are the first people - outsiders - that the people here say they have seen and we are only a couple of kilometres from the airport."

    Searches ending

    Earlier, the USNS Comfort arrived in Haitian waters with its hospital and advanced surgical units.

    Up to 12,000 US military personnel are now in the country or on ships offshore.

    Lieutenant-General Ken Keen, commander of the US joint task force in Haiti, told Al Jazeera: "[We] have delivered 1,300,000 bottles of water, over 700,000 meals and over 21,000 pounds of medical supplies.

    "Supplies are flowing, they're getting out, not to everyone, but we are making progress each day."

    However, Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Port-au-Prince, said: "For many Haitians, very little has changed over the last nine days since they were made homeless by the quake.

    In video

    Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley describes the exodus of Haitian refugees from Port-au-Prince

    "Although more aid, more aid workers, are pouring into the capital, and then fanning out into surrounding areas, some aid distribution is going quite smoothly, some in is in chaos.

    "The US military, which is in control of the Port-au-Prince airport, has decided to eject all media organisations from the airport, not giving any reason for that decision."

    Meanwhile, the hunt for survivors has continued, with teams from the US, Brazil and Chile still working with sniffer dogs at the collapsed Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince.

    "We're looking for people alive or dead," Rodrigo Vasquez, a major in the Chilean army, said.

    "As well as being hopeful you have to be realistic and after nine days, reality says it is more difficult to find people alive but it's not impossible."

    But some search-and-rescue team have begun to wind down their efforts.

    The Reuters news agency said a Florida-based outfit had left the country and that teams from Belgium, Luxembourg and Britain were also on there way out of Haiti.

    Banks to reopen

    Banks were scheduled to reopen on Friday in the provinces and on Saturday in Port-au-Prince, giving most Haitians their first access to cash since the earthquake hit, Josseline Colimon Fethiere, the country's commerce minister, said.

    Some bank branches were demolished in the earthquake but the banks planned to share customers, and to stay open on Sunday, she said.

    However, most of the basics of city life are still missing or barely functional in Port-au-Prince.

    Hospitals are overwhelmed and doctors lack anaesthesia, forcing them to operate on wide-awake patients with only local painkillers.

    Doctors Without Borders said there were 10- to 12-day backlogs of patients at some of its surgical sites and they were seeing infections of untreated wounds.

    "Some victims are already dying of sepsis," the group said.

    Feeding the hungry

    Aid groups have brought in mobile kitchens and bakeries have struggled to feed the hungry.

    The World Food Programme (WFP) estimated there were 200 homeless encampments in Port-au-Prince alone and urged the government to begin consolidating them to streamline aid distribution.

    "We will probably need to feed between one to two million but it depends on the rate at which people leave the city," Thiry Benoit, WFP's deputy country representative in Haiti, said.

    Port-au-Prince's water system is only partially functional but tanker lorries have begun to deliver water to makeshift camps, with people lining up to fill their buckets.

    Violence and looting has subsided as US troops provide security for water and food distribution and thousands of displaced Haitians have heeded the government's advice to seek shelter outside the capital.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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