Jess Hurd

Photographer

Haiti Earthquake – 2nd Anniversary

Two years ago the earthquake in Haiti devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. We mark that day to remember the dead, but also the continued suffering of the living.

See a slideshow here

DISCLAIMER: Please view with caution, these images graphically depict the aftermath of the earthquake including photographs of decomposing bodies and a harrowing hospital operation.

Pic: Haitians salvage food and goods necessary for survival from burning buildings. Haiti earthquake  © Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk

My eyewitness account..

“It’s worse than a war zone,” says Jordy Cox, an American surgeon and volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). She has just performed an operation in an outdoor makeshift theatre to save the arm of a 22 year old girl.

Alphonse Edwards, an American medic and volunteer, has been helping near the airport. “We were losing ten people a day, having to amputate without anesthetic or antibiotics,” he said. “The supplies I brought were used up the first afternoon. “We had no bandages, we were using rocks and sticks for splints with no tape to bind them.”

He describes the situation as “critical” blaming the US for the delay in aid getting through and the poor coordination of the aid operation.

“The US controls the airport and there is priority for American aid planes but others are sent back to the Dominican Republic.”

The US Embassy is one of the few buildings that remains open. Alphonse said he was treating people in the dirt, feet away from an unused US Military hospital which has boxes of vital medical supplies.

We drive through the crumbling city streets the sheer scale of the damage and devastation become clear. Haitians cover their mouths and noses with torn T-shirts in an attempt to mask the overwhelming stench of death and pollution.

I witnessed the horror of volunteers shoveling tangled bodies left on the street into a huge truck. The dead lie entombed where they were caught, unable to flee as the earthquake struck. Many were buried alive, crying for help and water in their last hours. Their bodies can been seen crushed between the floors of collapsed buildings.

As rubbish piles up it is burnt with the dead on the roadside. Other bodies are left at the cemetery where workers break open graves to bury new corpses and seal them up with concrete. Chickens eat the maggots from the decomposing corpses and pigs feed from the body-strewn rubbish.

This is hell on earth.

***

I travelled to Port-au-Prince with a group of Haitians living in the US and the Dominican Republic.

Their common aim was to ensure that medical supplies were delivered to those who needed them. They also wanted to see if their relatives were safe. Everyone has harrowing stories to tell. One young pregnant relative trapped by concrete gave birth to her child – they both perished. Another told a story of a child who went back into the house to get a book and was killed by an aftershock.

Everywhere you look people are foraging amongst the rubble and twisted metal to find food and items to sell and re-use.

Existence in Haiti is fragile at the best of times. Most Haitian people live precariously making a living in the informal street economy. People sell everything from individual portions of cornflakes to sugar cane.

Many have seen their goods destroyed and have no way of generating income. Those that have money cannot access it, and they cannot contact their relatives.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It has been impoverished by colonial rule, slavery, the outrageous requirement to compensate former slave owners for the money they “lost”, US intervention, loan repayments and corrupt and incompetent rulers.

This situation is man-made.

Much anger is directed against the US, for the slow and inadequate rescue and aid response. The general feeling is that this is Katrina all over again.

Carline Paul runs Haitian American Youth of Tomorrow, a Miami educational charity for families and new immigrants. She took volunteers with medical supplies direct to the Haitian people with the help of the Dominican government.

“We know the big bureaucracy has the bulk of the supplies and the logistical problems but we felt the people were in such dire need right now we needed to get the medical supplies direct to the people.”

“This is about poverty. It is day 11 and people are still dying.”

***

See original blog post with fundraising work/interviews here

 


 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: