Beginning of cleaning of houses collapsed by the earthquake in Haiti


MANICHE – At the edge of a pile of rubble, Michael Jules has repeatedly plunged an iron bar into the crumbling concrete of his grandmother’s house. A younger cousin crouched down at his feet, tearing up the debris with a trowel.

It was the third day for Jules who was working on site as an archaeologist, removing layer after layer of rock. He had established more or less the perimeter of his room. Tuesday morning, he discovered a corner of his mattress.

While Jules, 21, worked with hand tools, and sometimes his bare hands, just down the street, heavy earthmovers cleared land, dropping entire houses into dump trucks or scraping collapsed homes. in neat piles. For some victims of the August 14 earthquake in Haiti, the necessary prelude to reconstruction has begun.

Joseph Gervain, another cousin of Jules, was watching from the street. He lived in a house behind which was also damaged. He wonders how the diggers decide which lots to clear and which to pass.

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“I see people removing debris, but I don’t know what the conditions are,” Gervain said. “Maybe they’re paying to have the debris removed. I see they are jumping from houses. Someone is giving orders to the house, the debris of which must be removed.

The machines bore the logos of non-governmental organizations, but the people they were helping appeared to be guided by the mayor of Maniche.

Jean Favard watched as one of the big yellow machines pushing back the rubble of his vacation home just up the street from Jules’ grandmother’s house. No one had lived in Favard’s house and he said he planned to rebuild once it was cleaned up.

Meanwhile, Gervain said he had no idea what his family would do on the land where a two-story house with eight bedrooms – housing 12 people – had been reduced to a one-story pile of concrete. and twisted rebar.

Jules kept digging. His goal was twofold: his clothes – he only wore borrowed Spider-Man boxers – and his passport.

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“I haven’t found anything yet,” Jules said.

Maniche is an hour’s drive from a tarmac road, over a mountain pass and settles in a wide green valley. The city has lost 80 to 90% of its homes, according to preliminary estimates. Heaps of rubble like Jules’ grandmother’s house dot every street.

Even most of the houses still standing will have to be demolished.

The Maniche waterfront market seemed relatively quiet. Even on a Tuesday – market day is Saturday – farmers in the surrounding areas crossed the river carrying bags of beans and peanuts on their heads. Mules waded through the water, their woven saddlebags loaded with heavy bunches of plantains.

Gervain, Jules’s cousin, said it was lucky the earthquake happened on a Saturday because most of the people were outside at the market.

Jules was not. He had to run out of the house when the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck. Now he was desperately looking for his passport as he is a professional football player for the Haitian League club America des Cayes.

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“I need to have my passport if I have to travel with the club for a tournament in the Dominican Republic or Cuba,” said Jules, although such matches will have to wait: the current season has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While outside the uniform and standing on top of a pile of rubble, the right-back was still immediately recognized by a fan.

“Are you from here?” the man, a motorcycle taxi driver from Les Cayes, asked in disbelief. “I didn’t know you were from Maniche.

Aid was slowly arriving in the city of about 20,000 people.

Philemon Charles, a carpenter, said the first necessity was shelter. Her family had been sleeping outside their damaged home for over a week.

On Tuesday, the United States-based humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse distributed large blue tarps for temporary shelters and small solar lights that also allow people to charge their cell phones. Actor Sean Penn’s Haiti relief team, Community Organized Relief Effort, brought in the heavy machinery. And convoys from various United Nations agencies invaded the city.

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By the time the punishing sun chased Jules from the rock pile on Tuesday, he had managed to remove his twin mattress. No more crumbled concrete immediately fell into the temporary void it had just created.

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