News / Americas

Path of Haiti Quake Destruction Extends to Other Cities

Road from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel offers glimpse of earthquake's power

The bulk of relief efforts in Haiti have focused on the capital, Port-au-Prince, which suffered massive damage and casualties in the January 12 earthquake. The quake also affected small mountain-top communities and the coastal city of Jacmel some 85 kilometers south.

The road from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel passes through sugar cane farming areas and winds over the mountains before reaching Haiti's southern coast. Difficult passes make it a challenging drive, but the road is a critical artery connecting the two cities.

The first stop after leaving the capital is Carrefour, the epicenter of the January 12 quake. As in Port-au-Prince, some buildings remain intact, but many have crumbled or collapsed entirely.

Two men in the city use a metal pole to break through the concrete roof of their home, to retrieve mattresses and other items pinned under the rubble. Many families have gathered their belongings and sleep under tarps next to their damaged homes.

A few kilometers past Carrefour, U.S. military helicopters are dropping food and water in an open field across from a sugar cane plantation. The supplies are transferred to trucks to be taken to a nearby orphanage and other communities.

A crowd gathered to watch the operation hoping to get some supplies. Wismick Lemere says it is frustrating to watch aid arrive and not receive any.

"I've been here ever since this morning. I thought they were going to give out the food. But they tell me they are waiting for the U.N. to come get the food. Even the Marines don't know where the U.N. people are going with the food," Lemere said.

Along the mountain road between Jacmel and the capital the quake damaged many buildings and triggered several landslides. Small groups of volunteers work to clear the roads and direct traffic, in the hope of getting tips from passing drivers.

In the town of Tombe Gateau, church members sing religious songs in front of the rubble of one church. They say they have come from a nearby village to offer some comfort to the people suffering here.

Nearby a group of men are using wood to build a shelter for their roulette lottery game. Even in the aftermath of the quake, people are willing to gamble some money in the hope of getting a big payout.

As the road approaches Jacmel, a Canadian warship can be seen patrolling the waters off the coast. Almost all of the buildings in town have been spray-painted with an X or a circle, apparently left behind by rescue crews who did house-to-house searches. On the wall of one destroyed building, a crew of firefighters from Bogota, Colombia, painted their name and some numbers indicating the search results.

Nearby, Franz Geannis is painting carved wooden artwork that he sells to tourists. No tourists have come since the quake, and he worries it could be months before they return. He remains hopeful, however, that he may get some business from the flood of journalists and aid workers.

"You don't come to buy, but if you buy some of my artwork, you help me. See what I mean?" Geannis said.

In Jacmel, the search and rescue operation seems to have hit every part of the city, while in Port-au-Prince many neighborhoods have yet to see any help. It is clear, however, that the extent of damage and the ongoing needs of residents is high in both cities.

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