Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scenes from a Disaster
La Promesse School | Petion-Ville, Haiti

This is my attempt to bring some perspective to the La Promesse school disaster in Petion-Ville. I've paraphrased some remarks made at the scene by a government official, neighborhood people and rescuers and President Rene Preval. Also I've included the latest news from Ezili Danto of Haitian Lawyer's Leadership Network (HLLN) and reflections on what should happen next from Haitian activist Jean Saint-Vil.

"The situation is bad for the kids. There are some who are on top of those that are still alive. They are blocking us from rescuing the ones beneath. "

"When a person is in shock, when a person is bleeding, they need medicine. We need medicine! We've been working here all night pulling people out of the building. We need medicine! We don't have medicine!"

I have the identifications of some children, I found their telephones. The parents should call me to check the list I have, to see if they're child's names are on it. My number is... I've lived in this area for 25 years. It's a catastrophe. When they did the construction they did not analyze the area to see if it would support this sort of construction.

A government official says the school's collapse is the result of the builder's failure to comply with building regulations.
It's all of us who are responsible. In this country. We took measures. What measures are we to take? We asked these people to not construct on a hill. We asked them to take precautions during construction. They did not conform. It's your country's image. Take precautions. Unfortunately, I don't know how many children are in there.

Haitian President René Preval arrives on the scene and attempts to clear the area for rescuers and emergency vehicles.
We need a radio to send an urgent message to tell the people to leave this area so that the rescuers can come and go freely. Secondly, if you look at the school, its an edifice with practically no cement to support it, that's why it fell. What's important for the families to know who have lost children–to bring help to them we must clear this alley of the cars and people. We need space so that the engineers and rescuers can work. This would be best for people under the rubble, who are suffering. Let's not invite another disaster. We have people from Canada and Washington asking; how can we help? Evaluations are going on right now to find out if they have specialist they can send from Canada and the United States.

Ezili Danto's Witness Project reported on the heart-wrenching suffering and agony at the scene. The frantic search in the rubble for survivors by rescuers who managed to find survivors early on, but were not equipped to save the ones buried deep under heavy rubble. It was a "perfect storm" of circumstances that included hospital strikes and government regulation failures.
On Friday, May 7, 2008, the three-story La Promesse school building in Petionville, Haiti, collapsed while class was in session with more than 500 to 700 students inside. The bodies of at least 93 children killed have been recovered so far, over 200 injured have been either treated or admitted for care; as the death toll is expected to reach in the hundreds. Trinite Hospital is the only working hospital open in Port-au-Prince. The other two, General Hospital and Hospital de la Paix, are closed by strikes. Mothers of the school children and neighbors who live around the school that our Haiti correspondents spoke to late yesterday evening say the screams and moans of more students, buried in the rubble of the concrete building, can still be heard throughout the night.

*By the time international rescue teams with specialized equipment from the US and France arrived to help on Saturday, a day after the collapse, it was too late. Only four survivors were pulled from the ruins on Saturday, and no other survivors had been found since. Fortin Augustin, the Protestant minister who owns the school and church, was arrested on Saturday as authorities investigated him on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter. Fortin Augustin was denied a permit to build the school in the 1990s but went ahead with the project during the coup d'etat years of rebellion and government upheaval and anarchy that followed.

By Tuesday, Nov. 11, AP Reported "Nearly all other survivors were found in the frantic first hours by neighbors who leaped on the rubble and dug with their bare hands, sometimes with the help of U.N. peacekeepers. No survivors have been found since the U.S. and French teams arrived Saturday."

I am sick and tired of the cowardice displayed by the Haitian leaders. Kote moun yo?
Jafrikayiti a Haitian activist, performer and educator laments the lack of courage of the Preval administration in knuckling under to the demands of the colonial powers who hold the purse strings, who have refused to give Haiti debt relief.
Is there a President in Haiti?

Is there a Parliament in Haiti?

Kote moun yo? (Where are these people?)

Are there men and women with courage and decency in this country to finally do the right thing:
  1. Declare Haiti to be in a state of EMERGENCY - therefore...
  2. DEBT payments are to stop immediately
  3. Investment in the nation's infrastructure to begin on a priority basis
How can it not be obvious, that Haiti cannot afford to be financing the World Bank and its blood-suckers international associates to the tune of $1 million a week !!!!!

When there is not even one good General Hospital on the 27 750 KM2 of the country

When there is a whole school system to rebuild from scratch

When there is a road network to be build.

When the farmers cannot expect the basics they deserve and need from their State to produce food for the nation.

It is criminal for the Haitian government to be so coward in its discussions with the former colonial powers (who now like to be called international community - in order to hide their RESPONSIBILITY in the mess nations like Haiti, the Congo etc... are living today).
UPDATE: 11.13.08
More details have surfaced about the troubled history of La Promesse school. The former major of Petion-Ville had stopped the construction during her term in office. The turmoil and chaos of the U.S. gov't sponsored coup d'etat of 2004 has claimed these children as its latest victims.
By the time international rescue teams arrived (from Martinique and Virginia) with floodlights and with search dogs wearing huge "USAID" signs around their torso for the requisite publicity shots, by the time trucks carried oxygen and medical supplies down the mountain road, by the time international rescue teams arrived to help on Saturday, the day after the collapse, it was too late. The crane, sonar, cameras and USAID rescue dogs were too late. Only four survivors - two girls, ages three and five, and two boys, a seven-year-old and a teenager - were pulled alive from the ruins on Saturday, and no other survivors have been found since.

Fortin Augustin, the Protestant minister who owns the school and church, was arrested on Saturday as authorities investigated him on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter. Fortin Augustin was denied a permit to build the school in the 1990s, but went ahead with the project during the coup d'etat years of rebellion and government upheaval and anarchy that followed.

The mayor of Petionville has told local Haitian radio that during her previous term as mayor she had stopped construction on the school, but it resumed sometime between 2004 and 2006 when Bush regime change's Boca Raton interim government was imposed on Haiti. (See, No more victims found in collapsed Haitian school by Jacqueline Charles, Nov. 9, 2008 Miami Herald; See also, I am sick and tired of the cowardice displayed by the Haitian leaders. Kote moun yo?; Hope Fades, Grief Sets in Near Fallen Haiti School; and Haitian Families Furious Over School Collapse).

By Tuesday, Nov. 11, AP Reported "Nearly all other survivors were found in the frantic first hours by neighbors who leaped on the rubble and dug with their bare hands, sometimes with the help of U.N. peacekeepers. No survivors have been found since the U.S. and French teams arrived Saturday." (Girl, 8, recalls 12-hour Haitian school collapse ordeal)...

(HLLN Report on the School Collapse, Nov 7, 2008)

1 comment:

Disaster Preparedness Tips said...

What an awful disaster scene. It is so important to be prepared for something like this.

Related Posts with Thumbnails