I could not help thinking of my occasional commentator Damian Doyle when I heard about the earthquake in Haiti last night because it seems that he is quite inspired by death and destruction in the poorer parts of the world (it is the subject of his many tweets) and they don’t come much poorer that Haiti nor is the scale of the disaster insignificant.
“But so many, so many buildings, so many neighbourhoods totally destroyed, and some neighbourhoods we don’t even see people, so I don’t know where those people are.”
President Rene Preval painted a scene of complete destruction in his impoverished Caribbean nation after the quake struck on Tuesday (Wednesday morning Queensland time).
“Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed,” he told the Miami Herald.
“There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them,” he said, as experts spoke of the worst quake to hit the disaster-prone nation in more than a century.
With hospitals also having crumbled in the fury of the quake, medical services were struggling to cope with the flow of wounded.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the capital, with its population of two million people had borne the brunt of the quake which struck at 4.53pm on Tuesday local time (7.53am Queensland time), saying vast areas had been destroyed.
While much of the rest of the impoverished Caribbean nation appeared largely unaffected, Ban gave a grim assessment of the devastation in Port-au-Prince, saying the city’s few basic services had collapsed.
“There is no doubt that we are facing a major humanitarian emergency and that a major relief effort will be required,” he told a press conference in the United Nations, as he prepared to visit Haiti as soon as possible.
The temblor toppled the cupola on the gleaming white presidential palace, a major hotel where 200 tourists were missing and the headquarters of the UN mission in Haiti where up to 250 personnel were unaccounted for.
Five people were confirmed dead in the UN headquarters, and the head of the peacekeeping mission, Tunisian Hedi Annabi, was among the missing.
Jordan reported that three of its peacekeepers were killed and 21 injured. Brazil said 11 of its peacekeepers died, while eight Chinese soldiers were buried in rubble and 10 were missing, state media said.
An Argentine-staffed hospital was the only one left operating in the city and was struggling to cope with huge numbers of injured, its director told Argentine television.
Of course at this remove there is not much anyone here can do apart from sending money and of course I hope that the death toll is less than many people fear but I can’t help thinking that there is a certain cruel irony that it is always the most solid and substantial buildings that are the most deadly when the earth decides to move.
Anyway lets hope that the rescue effort is swift and substantial while there is still time to extract the trapped from the ruins, the rebuilding will take longer and sadly I think that the buildings that replace the fallen will be no safer than the ones that that have fallen.
Until next time Comrades