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Haiti six months later: Damaged infrastructure

July 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
[Editor's note: David Ono from ABC7 Eyewitness News recently returned to Haiti to see what progress has been made six months after the earthquake. Ono's reports reveal a side to Haiti that very few people are talking about. Watch what happens when Ono returns to Haiti, all week at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Eyewitness News.]

Six months after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed 300,000 people in Haiti, hurricane season is here, one more reason for Haitians to despair.

To understand what life is like in Port-au-Prince, all I have to do is take you on a drive through the city.

Its problems are all so pronounced they are laid out for everyone to see. This is a city that was in desperate need before the earthquake. Since the devastating day of the earthquake in January, undoubtedly Port-au-Prince has become one of the most miserable places in the world.

I'm sitting on what Haitians call a "tap-tap." It's their version of a taxi. It's basically a renovated small-cab pickup truck. This one is fairly comfortable because it doesn't have a roof on it, so we get some air flowing through, but a lot of them do have roofs, which can't be comfortable when they're crowded with about 15 people sitting inside of it.

But comfort is so far down the list of needs in this country, no one complains.

Most of the city still has no electricity or running water. And when they do, it's sporadic at best.

The streets are in horrible shape. There's no such thing as a stop sign or a traffic light.

The only vehicles on the road are public transportation, or giant heavy-duty trucks for private industry.

Gasoline is enormously expensive at $5 per gallon. Filling a small truck cost me $80. Statistically that's more than one and a half times the annual salary for more than half this country's population.

Unemployment is estimated to be near 90 percent.

Most who do have an income are street vendors, who make mere pennies by our standards, but it means they will eat tonight. More importantly, it gives them hope.

In the heart of Port-au-Prince, things are getting back to normal. There are vendors here and traffic is a nightmare, which is a good sign.

But if you look across the street, the devastation is everywhere and nothing has changed in six months.

Haiti is in desperate need of heavy construction equipment. The latest report says there are only 300 trucks removing the rubble left over from the earthquake.

Most of the work is still being done by hand. The only tractor I personally saw was sitting idle.

At this rate, it's estimated removing the rubble will take 20 years. Keep in mind there are still thousands of bodies buried in the debris.

Haiti, as a country, is incapable of producing enough food to feed its population. A majority of its citizens are malnourished and one out of every three will not live to see his or her fifth birthday.

Disease from the sewage and trash is also to blame.

In the community of Delmas, basically in the heart of Port-au-Prince. A drainage ditch runs rainwater from high up in the hills down into the ocean. But the problem is a tremendous amount of trash accumulates along the banks. People live right above the banks in shanties. Earthquake destruction can be seen above the shanties.

Yves Fraze is the president of this community. He saw our American news camera and sensed an opportunity.

"This community, it is just wanting to find somebody who wants to help them to clean this community because as you see, it's very dirty," said Fraze.

He says he is proud of his community. They have been working nonstop, trying to clear, clean and rebuild, but the task is impossible without help.

It's hurricane season. Every time it rains it's a not-so-subtle reminder that this country is playing Russian roulette with Mother Nature.

A rainstorm hit on Monday. Water and mud inundated shelters. The winds collapsed tents. People were fleeing, crying and angry.

"People are not going to tolerate this situation anymore," said one man in Haitian Creole. "We came here and they told us that in three months we would be relocated and six months have passed and we are still here."

If a rainstorm can cause this kind of damage, a hurricane may be deadlier than the earthquake.

How is plastic and cardboard supposed to withstand 100-mph winds? And when the floodwaters start to rise, one and a half million people will have nowhere to run.

Ninety-four of the tents in the community of Delmas collapsed in the rain. It's another illustration of how these people are sitting ducks and are truly helpless if massive storms come their way.

Today was a wakeup call, but is anyone paying attention?

That is life in Port-au-Prince.

For a list of relief organizations working in Haiti and how you can donate: Haiti Earthquake Six Months Later: Where and How to Donate

Wednesday, July 14, 11 p.m.: I'll take you into an orphanage. We had hoped that at least the orphanages have some resources so the children are protected and cared for. Not this one. The children are in dire need. Their guardian is overwhelmed and begging for help. Eyewitness News will bring you their story.


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