Contact with Haiti residents: rubble, bribes and petrol queues

Six days after the earthquake, little contact has been made with residents of Port au prince, where communication remains almost impossible. We managed to talk by webcam to residents of a suburb of the capital, who contacted FRANCE 24 by email. Read their accounts...


Photo posted on the Red Cross Facebook page.

Six days after the earthquake, little contact has been made with residents of Port-au-prince, where communication remains almost impossible. We managed to talk via webcam to residents of a suburb of the capital, who had contacted FRANCE 24 by email.

“I get to the petrol station at around 5am”

Mario is Vincent's neighbour. He's currently staying in Vincent's house with his family.

My house, which was two-storeys, was completely destroyed. Luckily my whole family, except my youngest child, was outside at the time. I managed to get inside and rescue the little one.

It's a jungle here now. Prices have doubled, people are asking for backhanders. Thankfully, I know people who are willing to accept bribes for products. For petrol [needed to power home electricity generators and in extremely high demand], I get to the petrol station at around 5am, have a word with the security guard, give him a sweetener. That way when the pumps open I've got a good place in the queue. It feels bad skipping the queue, but...".  

“The black market … even if I’d rather not get involved, I’ve got 15 people counting on me”

Vincent is a French humanitarian aid worker living in Delmas, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. He's lived in Haiti on and off since 1995. He currently has 15 people left homeless by the quake living in his apartment.

On the day of the quake I had just got home and was making something to eat when the tremors started. Despite being aware that a big earthquake could happen any day, it was still hard to believe that it really had. When you look at construction here, it's a pretty frightening prospect. (...)

Construction is completely reckless and built on very difficult ground; often on inclines of 30%. The logic is to build simply, and then reinforce the house afterwards. Sheet iron is replaced with concrete, an extra floor is added etc.

I know areas where three-storey houses have been built over ten years. They're just three floors stacked upon each other. People build them themselves, they're not entirely competent but they call on neighbours and others who know a bit about building. As a way of economising, they use packed sand rather than cement... in fact that's one of the reasons I managed to save a child, because the wall was so crumbly that we were able to break it up in order to get her out.

It was just after the quake, I was making my way round my friends' houses to see if they were ok. I came across a bunch of people who were screaming because there was a little girl trapped in a half destroyed house. We were scared of going inside but someone had already gone in and talked to the girl. It was risky but manageable. We took it in turns to go inside. The girl was completely stuck, saved only by a lodged washing machine. It took two hours to get her out, by taking away parts of the wall piece by piece. Despite our efforts, she died the morning after.

When there are dead bodies everywhere, it becomes almost surreal. But what I can't stop thinking about, is the image of that little girl. We could see her, touch her, talk to her, we gave her water, but...

The difficulty is that you want to help others but you have to help yourself first. We're all going through a crisis. I've lost friends, colleagues... everybody's in shock and completely shattered. In each district of 10 to 15 thousand people, committees have been set up that comprise of groups which manage food, petrol for electricity generators, tarpaulins etc.

You have to queue for three kilometres for petrol. The stations only reopened yesterday. The black market, bribes ... even if I'd rather not get involved, I've got 15 people counting on me."