News / Americas

Haitians Near Quake Epicenter Still Tallying Their Losses

Coastal town of Carrefour, 15 km west of capital, has received little assistance from foreign aid groups or the government

A family in the destroyed town of Carrefour, Haiti sits amid the charred rubble of their home, 25 Jan 2010
A family in the destroyed town of Carrefour, Haiti sits amid the charred rubble of their home, 25 Jan 2010
Barry Newhouse

The Haitian town of Carrefour sits atop the epicenter of the earthquake that devastated the region nearly two weeks ago.  Survivors in one neighborhood have only each other to cope with their losses.

The coastal town of tightly packed neighborhoods is about 15 kilometers west of Port au Prince.  Despite its proximity to the capital city and the quake's epicenter, residents have received little assistance from foreign aid groups or the government.

In one neighborhood just off the main thoroughfare, about 5,000 residents have received two large tents.  Trucks bringing free water stopped here temporarily a few days ago but have not returned.

One man helping to dig out corpses still buried beneath the rubble introduces himself.

"I am so glad to see you this morning, because I have not seen anybody coming.  Some people say why are you breaking into this house?  And I say listen, there is a body under the house, I have to take it out.  I cannot just leave it like that," he said.

Ilosielar Josue is a Haitian-American living in Florida whose extended family is from this neighborhood.  After the quake, he spent several days traveling to check on family and friends.  He has been here for a week and offers to give a tour of the devastation.

"You see those houses?  Those houses have maybe 30 people in them.  Most of them died.  This house over there, yeah, most of them died.  I have a cousin there with two kids," Josue said.

Like nearly everyone else here, Josue sleeps outside in the street on a bare mattress when he is not digging through rubble.  International aid groups have said getting more tents is a top priority for the hundreds of thousands of newly homeless.

A man in Carrefour, Haiti, near the quake's epicenter, attempts to dig out whatever possessions he can salvage from his destroyed home, 25 Jan 2010
A man in Carrefour, Haiti, near the quake's epicenter, attempts to dig out whatever possessions he can salvage from his destroyed home, 25 Jan 2010

Some streets are nearly impassable because they are choked with wreckage and makeshift camps.  As he passes several homes crushed by their roofs, Josue asks one neighbor about his situation.

"Two people dead and one in the hospital.  It is terrible.  No help," Josue said.

He says some of the survivors who have relatives living in less affected areas have already left.  But most people here continue to squat beside their ruined homes.  The streets are now filled with tarps, where people sleep when they are not salvaging their belongings from the wreckage.

"Listen, you can not leave your street and go to another street.  If you leave your property some people will come and steal everything you have," Josue said.

As he passes a home where only the door and two exterior walls are still standing, he says the street in front of the house is now a graveyard.

"Two little kids were living right here, but one died and they buried him right here," he said.

Josue points down to an unmarked spot in the unfinished road.  He says this is not how the family wanted to bury their son, but they did not know what else to do.

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