2010 Haiti earthquake

2010 Haiti earthquake
2010 Haiti earthquake
Saint-Marc Léogâne Petit-Goâve Jacmel Port-au-PrinceHaiti earthquake map.png

Quake epicenter and major cities affected
Date 12 January 2010
Magnitude 7.0 Mw
Depth 13 km (8.1 miles)
Epicenter 18°27′25″N 72°31′59″W / 18.457°N 72.533°W / 18.457; -72.533
Countries or regions Haiti, Dominican Republic
Max. intensity MM X[1]
Peak acceleration 0.5 g[2]
Tsunami Yes (localized)[3]
Casualties 46,000[4][5][6] - 316,000[7] deaths (3rd deadliest earthquake of all time)

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicentre near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time (21:53 UTC) on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.[8][9]

By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded.[10] An estimated three million people were affected by the quake;[11] the Haitian government reported that an estimated 316,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 made homeless.[12][13] International agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development, have suggested that the death toll is much lower at somewhere between 46,000 and 92,000,[14][15][6] and 220,000, with around 1.5 million[16] to 1.8 million homeless.[17] The government of Haiti also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.[18]

The earthquake caused major damage in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and other settlements in the region. Many notable landmark buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail. Among those killed were Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Joseph Serge Miot,[19] and opposition leader Micha Gaillard.[20][21] The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), located in the capital, collapsed, killing many, including the Mission's Chief, Hédi Annabi.[22][23]

Many countries responded to appeals for humanitarian aid, pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel. Communication systems, air, land, and sea transport facilities, hospitals, and electrical networks had been damaged by the earthquake, which hampered rescue and aid efforts; confusion over who was in charge, air traffic congestion, and problems with prioritisation of flights further complicated early relief work. Port-au-Prince's morgues were quickly overwhelmed with many tens of thousands of bodies having to be buried in mass graves.[24] As rescues tailed off, supplies, medical care and sanitation became priorities. Delays in aid distribution led to angry appeals from aid workers and survivors, and looting and sporadic violence were observed. On 22 January the United Nations noted that the emergency phase of the relief operation was drawing to a close, and on the following day the Haitian government officially called off the search for survivors.



The island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is seismically active and has a history of destructive earthquakes. During Haiti's time as a French colony, earthquakes were recorded by French historian Moreau de Saint-Méry (1750–1819). He described damage done by an earthquake in 1751, writing that "only one masonry building had not collapsed" in Port-au-Prince; he also wrote that the "whole city collapsed" in the 1770 Port-au-Prince earthquake. Cap-Haïtien, other towns in the north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the Sans-Souci Palace were destroyed during an earthquake on 7 May 1842.[25] A magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck the Dominican Republic and shook Haiti on 4 August 1946, producing a tsunami that killed 1,790 people and injured many others.[26]

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,[27] and is ranked 149th of 182 countries on the Human Development Index.[28] The Australian government's travel advisory site had previously expressed concerns that Haitian emergency services would be unable to cope in the event of a major disaster,[29] and the country is considered "economically vulnerable" by the Food and Agriculture Organization.[30] It is no stranger to natural disasters; in addition to earthquakes, it has been struck frequently by tropical cyclones, which have caused flooding and widespread damage. The most recent cyclones to hit the island before the earthquake were Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike, all in the summer of 2008, causing nearly 800 deaths.[31]


USGS intensity map
Map showing regional tectonic setting of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone
Tiny dots of white against the plant-covered landscape (red in this image) are possible landslides, a common occurrence in mountainous terrain after large earthquakes. The Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone runs along the two linear valleys at the top of the image

The magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake occurred inland, on 12 January 2010 at 16:53 (UTC-05:00), approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) WSW from Port-au-Prince at a depth of 13 kilometres (8.1 mi)[8] on blind thrust faults associated with the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system.[32] There is no evidence of surface rupture and based on seismological, geological and ground deformation data it is thought that the earthquake did not involve significant lateral slip on the main Enriquillo fault.[33] Strong shaking associated with intensity IX on the Modified Mercalli scale (MM) was recorded in Port-au-Prince and its suburbs. It was also felt in several surrounding countries and regions, including Cuba (MM III in Guantánamo), Jamaica (MM II in Kingston), Venezuela (MM II in Caracas), Puerto Rico (MM II–III in San Juan), and the bordering Dominican Republic (MM III in Santo Domingo).[1][34] According to estimates from the USGS, approximately 3.5 million people lived in the area that experienced shaking intensity of MM VII to X,[1] a range that can cause moderate to very heavy damage even to earthquake-resistant structures.

The damage from the quake was more severe than for other quakes of similar magnitude due to the shallow depth of the quake.[35] [36]

The quake occurred in the vicinity of the northern boundary where the Caribbean tectonic plate shifts eastwards by about 20 millimetres (0.79 in) per year in relation to the North American plate. The strike-slip fault system in the region has two branches in Haiti, the Septentrional-Oriente fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault in the south; both its location and focal mechanism suggested that the January 2010 quake was caused by a rupture of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault, which had been locked for 250 years, gathering stress.[37] However, a study published in May 2010 suggested that the rupture process may have involved slip on multiple blind thrust faults with only minor, deep, lateral slip along or near the main Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone, suggesting that the event only partially relieved centuries of accumulated left-lateral strain on a small part of the plate-boundary system.[33] The rupture was roughly 65 kilometres (40 mi) long with mean slip of 1.8 metres (5.9 ft).[38] Preliminary analysis of the slip distribution found amplitudes of up to about 4 metres (13 ft) using ground motion records from all over the world.[39][40]

A 2007 earthquake hazard study by C. DeMets and M. Wiggins-Grandison noted that the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone could be at the end of its seismic cycle and concluded that a worst-case forecast would involve a 7.2 Mw earthquake, similar in size to the 1692 Jamaica earthquake.[41] Paul Mann and a group including the 2006 study team presented a hazard assessment of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system to the 18th Caribbean Geologic Conference in March 2008, noting the large strain; the team recommended "high priority" historical geologic rupture studies, as the fault was fully locked and had recorded few earthquakes in the preceding 40 years.[42] An article published in Haiti's Le Matin newspaper in September 2008 cited comments by geologist Patrick Charles to the effect that there was a high risk of major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince.[43]


History of the main shock and aftershocks with magnitudes larger than 4.0, data from USGS[44]

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recorded eight aftershocks in the two hours after the main earthquake, with magnitudes between 4.3 and 5.9.[44] Within the first nine hours 32 aftershocks of magnitude 4.2 or greater were recorded, 12 of which measured magnitude 5.0 or greater, and on January 24 USGS reported that there had been 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater since the January 12 quake.[44]

On 20 January at 06:03 local time (11:03 UTC) the strongest aftershock since the earthquake,[45] measuring magnitude 5.9 Mw, struck Haiti.[46] USGS reported its epicentre was about 56 kilometres (35 mi) WSW of Port-au-Prince,[44] which would place it almost exactly under the coastal town of Petit-Goâve. A UN representative reported that the aftershock collapsed seven buildings in the town.[47] According to staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who had reached Petit-Goâve for the first time the day before the aftershock, the town was estimated to have lost 15% of its buildings, and was suffering the same shortages of supplies and medical care as the capital.[48] Workers from the charity Save the Children reported hearing "already weakened structures collapsing" in Port-au-Prince,[45] but most sources reported no further significant damage to infrastructure in the city. Further casualties are thought to have been minimal since people had been sleeping in the open.[47] There are concerns that the 12 January earthquake could be the beginning of a new long-term sequence: "the whole region is fearful"; historical accounts, although not precise, suggest that there has been a sequence of quakes progressing westwards along the fault, starting with an earthquake in the Dominican Republic in 1751.[49]


The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning immediately after the initial quake,[50] but quickly cancelled it.[51] Nearly two weeks later it was reported that the beach of the small fishing town of Petit Paradis was hit by a localised tsunami wave shortly after the earthquake, probably as a result of an underwater slide, and this was later confirmed by researchers.[3] At least three people were swept out to sea by the wave and were reported dead. Witnesses told reporters that the sea first retreated and a "very big wave" followed rapidly, crashing ashore and sweeping boats and debris into the ocean.[52]

Damage to infrastructure

Damaged buildings in Port-au-Prince

Essential services

Amongst the widespread devastation and damage throughout Port-au-Prince and elsewhere, vital infrastructure necessary to respond to the disaster was severely damaged or destroyed. This included all hospitals in the capital; air, sea, and land transport facilities; and communication systems.

The quake affected the three Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) medical facilities around Port-au-Prince, causing one to collapse completely.[53][54] A hospital in Pétionville, a wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince, also collapsed,[55] as did the St. Michel District Hospital in the southern town of Jacmel,[56] which was the largest referral hospital in south-east Haiti.[57]

Damaged buildings in Jacmel

The quake seriously damaged the control tower at Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport[58] and the Port-au-Prince seaport,[59] which rendered the harbor unusable for immediate rescue operations. The Gonaïves seaport, in the northern part of Haiti, remained operational.[59]

Roads were blocked with road debris or the surfaces broken. The main road linking Port-au-Prince with Jacmel remained blocked ten days after the earthquake, hampering delivery of aid to Jacmel. When asked why the road had not been opened, Hazem el-Zein, head of the south-east division of the UN World Food Programme said that "We ask the same questions to the people in charge...They promise rapid response. To be honest, I don't know why it hasn't been done. I can only think that their priority must be somewhere else."[56]

There was considerable damage to communications infrastructure. The public telephone system was not available,[50] and two of Haiti's largest cellular telephone providers, Digicel[60] and Comcel Haiti,[61] both reported that their services had been affected by the earthquake. Fibre-optic connectivity was also disrupted.[62] According to Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), Radio Lumière, which broadcasts out of Port-au-Prince and reaches 90% of Haiti, was initially knocked off the air, but it was able to resume broadcasting across most of its network within a week. According to RSF, some 20 of about 50 stations that were active in the capital region prior to the earthquake were back on air a week after the quake.[63]

General infrastructure

Large portions of the National Palace collapsed

In February 2010 Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings were severely damaged and needed to be demolished.[18] The deputy mayor of Léogâne reported that 90% of the town's buildings had been destroyed.[64] Many government and public buildings were damaged or destroyed including the Palace of Justice, the National Assembly, the Supreme Court and Port-au-Prince Cathedral.[65][66] The National Palace was severely damaged,[67][68] though President René Préval and his wife Elisabeth Delatour Préval escaped injury.[69][70] The Prison Civile de Port-au-Prince was also destroyed, allowing around 4,000 inmates to escape.[71]

Léogâne, close to the earthquake epicentre

Most of Port-au-Prince's municipal buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged, including the City Hall, which was described by the Washington Post as, "a skeletal hulk of concrete and stucco, sagging grotesquely to the left."[72] Port-au-Prince had no municipal petrol reserves and few city officials had working mobile phones before the earthquake, complicating communications and transportation.[72]

Minister of Education Joel Jean-Pierre stated that the education system had "totally collapsed". About half the nation's schools and the three main universities in Port-au-Prince were affected.[73] More than 1,300 schools and 50 health care facilities were destroyed.[74]

The earthquake also destroyed a nursing school in the capital and severely damaged the country’s primary midwifery school.[75] The Haitian art world suffered great losses; artworks were destroyed, and museums and art galleries were extensively damaged, among them Port-au-Prince's main art museum, Centre d'Art, College Saint Pierre and Holy Trinity Cathedral.[76]

The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) at Christopher Hotel[22] and offices of the World Bank were destroyed.[77] The building housing the offices of Citibank in Port-au-Prince collapsed, killing five employees.[78] The clothing industry, which accounts for two-thirds of Haiti's exports,[79] reported structural damage at manufacturing facilities.[80]

The quake created a landslide dam on the Rivière de Grand Goâve. As of February 2010 the water level was low, but engineer Yves Gattereau believed the dam could collapse during the rainy season, which would flood Grand-Goâve 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) downstream.[81]

Conditions in the aftermath

Assistance camp set up by the Brazilian Army.

In the nights following the earthquake, many people in Haiti slept in the streets, on pavements, in their cars, or in makeshift shanty towns either because their houses had been destroyed, or they feared standing structures would not withstand aftershocks.[82] Construction standards are low in Haiti; the country has no building codes. Engineers have stated that it is unlikely many buildings would have stood through any kind of disaster. Structures are often raised wherever they can fit; some buildings were built on slopes with insufficient foundations or steel works.[83] A representative of Catholic Relief Services has estimated that about two million Haitians lived as squatters on land they did not own. The country also suffered from shortages of fuel and potable water even before the disaster.[84]

President Préval and government ministers used police headquarters near the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport as their new base of operations, although their effectiveness was extremely limited; several parliamentarians were still trapped in the Presidential Palace, and offices and records had been destroyed.[85] Some high-ranking government workers lost family members, or had to tend to wounded relatives. Although the president and his remaining cabinet met with UN planners each day, there remained confusion as to who was in charge and no single group had organized relief efforts as of 16 January.[86] The government handed over control of the airport to the United States to hasten and ease flight operations, which had been hampered by the damage to the air traffic control tower.[87]

Urban Search and Rescue specialists work at the Hôtel Montana

Almost immediately Port-au-Prince's morgue facilities were overwhelmed. By 14 January, a thousand bodies had been placed on the streets and pavements. Government crews manned trucks to collect thousands more, burying them in mass graves.[88] In the heat and humidity, corpses buried in rubble began to decompose and smell. Mati Goldstein, head of the Israeli ZAKA International Rescue Unit delegation to Haiti, described the situation as "Shabbat from hell. Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air. It’s just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust – thousands of bodies everywhere. You have to understand that the situation is true madness, and the more time passes, there are more and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension."[89][90]

Mayor Jean-Yves Jason said that officials argued for hours about what to do with the volume of corpses. The government buried many in mass graves, some above-ground tombs were forced open so bodies could be stacked inside, and others were burned.[91] Mass graves were dug in a large field outside the settlement of Titanyen, north of the capital; tens of thousands of bodies were reported as having been brought to the site by dump truck and buried in trenches dug by earth movers.[92] Max Beauvoir, a Vodou priest, protested the lack of dignity in mass burials, stating, "... it is not in our culture to bury people in such a fashion, it is desecration".[93][94]

The Haitian government began a programme to move homeless people out of Port-au-Prince on a ferry to Port Jeremie and in hired buses to temporary camps

Towns in the eastern Dominican Republic began preparing for tens of thousands of refugees, and by 16 January hospitals close to the border had been filled to capacity with Haitians. Some began reporting having expended stocks of critical medical supplies such as antibiotics by 17 January.[95] The border was reinforced by Dominican soldiers, and the government of the Dominican Republic asserted that all Haitians who crossed the border for medical assistance would be allowed to stay only temporarily. A local governor stated, "We have a great desire and we will do everything humanly possible to help Haitian families. But we have our limitations with respect to food and medicine. We need the helping hand of other countries in the area."[96][97]

Slow distribution of resources in the days after the earthquake resulted in sporadic violence, with looting reported.[98] There were also accounts of looters wounded or killed by vigilantes and neighbourhoods that had constructed their own roadblock barricades.[99][100] Dr Evan Lyon of Partners in Health, working at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, claimed that misinformation and overblown reports of violence had hampered the delivery of aid and medical services.[101][102]

One of the first parachute air drops after the quake, 18 January

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton acknowledged the problems and said Americans should "not be deterred from supporting the relief effort" by upsetting scenes such as those of looting.[71][103] Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, however, announced that despite the stories of looting and violence, there was less violent crime in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake than before.[104]

In many neighbourhoods, singing could be heard through the night and groups of men coordinated to act as security as groups of women attempted to take care of food and hygiene necessities.[105] During the days following the earthquake, hundreds were seen marching through the streets in peaceful processions, singing and clapping.[106]

The earthquake caused an urgent need for outside rescuers to communicate with Haitians whose main or only language is Haitian Creole. As a result, a machine translation program to translate between English and Haitian Creole had to be written quickly.


A Haitian boy receives treatment at a MINUSTAH logistics base

The earthquake struck in the most populated area of the country. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimated that as many as 3 million people had been affected by the quake.[11] On 10 February 2010, the Haitian government reported the death toll to have reached 230,000.[107] On the first anniversary of the earthquake, 12 January 2011, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the death toll from the quake was more than 316,000, raising the figures from previous estimates.[108]

Haitian authorities initially estimated that 300,000 had been injured[18] and as many as one million Haitians were left homeless.[109] However experts have questioned the validity of these numbers; Anthony Penna, professor emeritus in environmental history at Northeastern University, warned that casualty estimates could only be a "guesstimate",[110] and Belgian disaster response expert Claude de Ville de Goyet noted that "round numbers are a sure sign that nobody knows."[111] Edmond Mulet, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said, "I do not think we will ever know what the death toll is from this earthquake",[111] while the director of the Haitian Red Cross, Guiteau Jean-Pierre, noted that his organization had not had the time to count bodies, as their focus had been on the treatment of survivors.[111] The United States Agency for International Development concluded that the death toll was somewhere between 46,000 and 85,000.[112][113]

While the vast majority of casualties were Haitian civilians, the dead included aid workers, embassy staff, foreign tourists—and a number of public figures, includeding Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot,[19] aid worker Zilda Arns and officials in the Haitian government, including opposition leader Michel "Micha" Gaillard.[20] Also killed were a number of well-known Haitian musicians[114] and sports figures, including thirty members of the Fédération Haïtienne de Football.[115] At least 85 United Nations personnel working with MINUSTAH were killed,[116] among them the Mission Chief, Hédi Annabi, his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa.,[23] and police commissioner Douglas Coates. Around 200 guests were killed in the collapse of the Hôtel Montana in Port-au-Prince.[117]

Early response

Heavy-lift helicopters ferry water from the offshore flotilla, 15 January

Appeals for humanitarian aid were issued by many aid organizations, the United Nations[118] and president René Préval. Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the United States,[119] and his nephew, singer Wyclef Jean,[120] who was called upon by Préval to become a "roving ambassador" for Haiti,[121] also pleaded for aid and donations.

Many countries responded to the appeals and launched fund-raising efforts, as well as sending search and rescue teams. The neighbouring Dominican Republic was the first country to give aid to Haiti,[119] sending water, food and heavy-lifting machinery.[122] The hospitals in the Dominican Republic were made available; a combined effort of the Airports Department (DA), together with the Dominican Naval Auxiliaries, the UN and other parties formed the Dominican-Haitian Aerial Support Bridge, making the main Dominican airports available for support operations to Haiti. The Dominican website FlyDominicanRepublic.com [123] made available to the internet, daily updates on airport information and news from the operations center on the Dominican side.[122] The Dominican emergency team assisted more than 2,000 injured people, while the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (Indotel) helped with the restoration of some telephone services.[122] The Dominican Red Cross coordinated early medical relief in conjunction with the International Red Cross.[122] The government sent eight mobile medical units along with 36 doctors including orthopaedic specialists, traumatologists, anaesthetists, and surgeons. In addition, 39 trucks carrying canned food were dispatched, along with 10 mobile kitchens and 110 cooks capable of producing 100,000 meals per day.[124]

Having lost their homes, many Haitians now live in precarious camps

Other nations from farther afield also sent personnel, medicines, materiel, and other aid to Haiti. The first team to arrive in Port-au-Prince was ICE-SAR from Iceland, landing within 24 hours of the earthquake.[125] A 50-member Chinese team arrived early Thursday morning.[126] From the Middle East, the government of Qatar sent a strategic transport aircraft (C-17), loaded with 50 tonnes of urgent relief materials and 26 members from the Qatari armed forces, the internal security force (Lekhwiya), police force and the Hamad Medical Corporation, to set up a field hospital and provide assistance in Port-au-Prince and other affected areas in Haiti.[127] A rescue team sent by the Israel Defense Forces' Home Front Command established a field hospital near the United Nations building in Port-au-Prince with specialised facilities to treat children, the elderly, and women in labor. It was set up in eight hours and began operations on the evening of 16 January.[128] A Korean International Disaster Relief Team[129] with 40 rescuers, medical doctors, nurses and 2 k-9s was deployed to epicenters to assist mitigation efforts of Haitian Government. The team was required to stay 2 weeks at the sites.

The American Red Cross announced on 13 January that it had run out of supplies in Haiti and appealed for public donations.[130] Giving Children Hope worked to get much-needed medicines and supplies on the ground.[131] Partners in Health (PIH), the largest health care provider in rural Haiti was able to provide some emergency care from its ten hospitals and clinics all of which were outside the capital and undamaged.[132] MINUSTAH had over 9,000 uniformed peacekeepers deployed to the area.[133] Most of these workers were initially involved in the search for survivors at the organization's collapsed headquarters.[134]

Haitian survivors were transferred to rescue ships for medical aid

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated, allowing satellite imagery of affected regions to be shared with rescue and aid organizations.[135] Members of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook spread messages and pleas to send help.[136] Facebook was overwhelmed by—and blocked—some users who were sending messages about updates.[137] The American Red Cross set a record for mobile donations, raising US$7 million in 24 hours when they allowed people to send US$10 donations by text messages.[138] The OpenStreetMap community responded to the disaster by greatly improving the level of mapping available for the area using post-earthquake satellite photography provided by GeoEye,[139] and tracking website Ushahidi coordinated messages from multiple sites to assist Haitians still trapped and to keep families of survivors informed.[140] Some online poker sites hosted poker tournaments with tournament fees, prizes or both going to disaster relief charities.[141] Google Earth updated its coverage of Port-au-Prince on 17 January, showing the earthquake-ravaged city.

Easing refugee immigration into Canada was discussed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper,[142] and in the U.S. Haitians were granted Temporary Protected Status, a measure that permits about 100,000 illegal alien Haitians in the United States to stay legally for 18 months, and halts the deportations of 30,000 more, though it does not apply to Haitians outside the U.S.[143][144] Local and state agencies in South Florida, together with the U.S. government, began implementing a plan ("Operation Vigilant Sentry") for a mass migration from the Caribbean that had been laid out in 2003.[145]

Several orphanages were destroyed in the earthquake. After the process for the adoption of 400 children by families in the U.S. and the Netherlands was expedited,[146] Unicef and SOS Children urged an immediate halt to adoptions from Haiti.[147][148] Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children said: "The vast majority of the children currently on their own still have family members alive who will be desperate to be reunited with them and will be able to care for them with the right support. Taking children out of the country would permanently separate thousands of children from their families—a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering and inflict long-term damage on their chances of recovery."[147] However, several organizations were planning an airlift of thousands of orphaned children to South Florida on humanitarian visas, modelled on a similar effort with Cuban refugees in the 1960s named "Pedro Pan".[149] The Canadian government worked to expedite around 100 adoption cases that were already underway when the earthquake struck, issuing temporary permits and waving regular processing fees; the federal government also announced that it would cover adopted children's healthcare costs upon their arrival in Canada until they could be covered under provincially-administered public healthcare plans.[150]

Rescue and relief efforts

Helicopters transfer injured earthquake victims to hospital ship USNS Comfort off the coast of Haiti

Rescue efforts began in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, with able-bodied survivors extricating the living and the dead from the rubble of the many buildings that had collapsed.[151] Treatment of the injured was hampered by the lack of hospital and morgue facilities: the Argentine military field hospital, which had been serving MINUSTAH, was the only one available until 13 January.[152] Rescue work intensified only slightly with the arrival of doctors, police officers, military personnel and firefighters from various countries two days after the earthquake.[153]

MINUSTAH troops meet a relief flight on 16 January

From 12 January, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been working in Haiti since 1994, has been focusing on bringing emergency assistance to victims of the catastrophe, in close cooperation with its partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, particularly the Haitian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.[154][155]

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders; MSF) reported that the hospitals that had not been destroyed were overwhelmed by large numbers of seriously injured people, and that they had to carry out many amputations.[156][157] Running short of medical supplies, some teams had to work with any available resources, constructing splints out of cardboard and reusing latex gloves. Other rescue units had to withdraw as night fell amid security fears.[158] Over 3,000 people had been treated by Médecins Sans Frontières as of 18 January.[159] Ophelia Dahl, director of Partners in Health, reported, "there are hundreds of thousands of injured people. I have heard the estimate that as many as 20,000 people will die each day that would have been saved by surgery."[160]

UN forces took to patrolling the streets of Port-au-Prince

An MSF aircraft carrying a field hospital was repeatedly turned away[161][162] by U.S. air traffic controllers who had assumed control at Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport.[163] Four other MSF aircraft were also turned away.[163] In a 19 January press release MSF said, "It is like working in a war situation. We don’t have any more morphine to manage pain for our patients. We cannot accept that planes carrying lifesaving medical supplies and equipment continue to be turned away while our patients die. Priority must be given to medical supplies entering the country."[164] First responders voiced frustration with the number of relief trucks sitting unused at the airport.[165] Aid workers blamed U.S.-controlled airport operations for prioritising the transportation of security troops over rescuers and supplies;[103] evacuation policies favouring citizens of certain nations were also criticised.[166]

The U.S. military acknowledged the non-governmental organizations' complaints concerning flight-operations bias and promised improvement while noting that up to 17 January 600 emergency flights had landed and 50 were diverted; by the first weekend of disaster operations diversions had been reduced to three on Saturday and two on Sunday.[167] The airport was able to support 100 landings a day, up from the 35 a day that the airport gets during normal operation. A spokesman for the joint task force running the airport confirmed that though more flights were requesting landing slots, none were being turned away.[168]

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and French Minister of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet criticised the perceived preferential treatment for U.S. aid arriving at the airport, though a spokesman for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that there had been no official protest from the French government with regard to the management of the airport.[169][170] U.S. officials acknowledged that coordination of the relief effort is central to Haitian recovery,[171] and President Préval asked for calm coordination between assisting nations without mutual accusations.[172][173]

While international efforts received significant media coverage, much of the rescue effort was conducted by Haitians themselves

While the Port-au-Prince airport ramp has spaces for over a dozen airliners, in the days following the quake it sometimes served nearly 40 at once, creating serious delays.[174][175] The supply backup at the airport was expected to ease as the apron management improved, and when the perceived need for heavy security diminished.[103] Airport congestion was reduced further on 18 January when the United Nations and U.S. forces formally agreed to prioritise humanitarian flights over security reinforcement.[176]

By 14 January, over 20 countries had sent military personnel to the country, with Canada, the United States and the Dominican Republic providing the largest contingents. The supercarrier USS Carl Vinson arrived at maximum possible speed on 15 January with 600,000 emergency food rations, 100,000 ten-litre water containers, and an enhanced wing of 19 helicopters; 130,000 litres of drinking water were transferred to shore on the first day.[177]

The helicopter carrier USS Bataan sailed with three large dock landing ships and two survey/salvage vessels, to create a "sea base" for the rescue effort.[178][179][180] They were joined by the French Navy vessel Francis Garnier on 16 January,[181] the same day the hospital ship USNS Comfort and guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill left for Haiti.[182][183] Another large French vessel was later ordered to Haiti, the amphibious transport dock Siroco.[184]

A woman is rescued alive from rubble several days after the initial quake

International rescue efforts were restricted by traffic congestion and blocked roads.[185] Although U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had previously ruled out dropping food and water by air as too dangerous, by 16 January, U.S. helicopters were distributing aid to areas impossible to reach by land.[186]

In Jacmel, a city of 50,000, the mayor claimed that 70% of the homes had been damaged and that the quake had killed 300 to 500 people and left some 4,000 injured.[187] The small airstrip suffered damage that rendered it unusable for supply flights until 20 January.[188] The Canadian navy vessel HMCS Halifax was deployed to the area on 18 January; the Canadians joined Colombian rescue workers, Chilean doctors, a French mobile clinic, and Sri Lankan relief workers who had already responded to calls for aid.[189]

About 64,000 people living in the three adjacent agricultural communities of Durissy, Morne a Chandelle, and Les Palmes were relatively unharmed because most of the people were working in the fields; but all churches, chapels and at least 8,000 homes were destroyed.[190]

British search and rescue teams were the first to arrive in Léogane, the town at the epicentre of the quake, on 17 January.[191] The Canadian ship HMCS Athabaskan reached the area on 19 January,[192] and by 20 January there were 250-300 Canadian personnel assisting relief efforts in the town.[193] By 19 January, staff of the International Red Cross had also managed to reach the town, which they described as "severely damaged ... the people there urgently need assistance",[194] and by 20 January they had reached Petit-Goâve as well, where they set up two first-aid posts and distributed first-aid kits.[195]

A Haitian child is treated aboard a hospital ship

Over the first weekend 130,000 food packets and 70,000 water containers were distributed to Haitians, as safe landing areas and distribution centres such as golf courses were secured.[196] There were nearly 2,000 rescuers present from 43 different groups, with 161 search dogs; the airport had handled 250 tons of relief supplies by the end of the weekend.[197] Reports from Sunday showed a record-breaking number of successful rescues, with at least 12 survivors pulled from Port-au-Prince's rubble, bringing the total number of rescues to 110.[198]

The buoy tender USCG Oak and USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) were on scene by 18 January to assess damage to the port and work to reopen it,[199][200] and by 21 January one pier at the Port-au-Prince seaport was functional, offloading humanitarian aid, and a road had been repaired to make transport into the city easier.[201] In an interview on 21 January, Leo Merores, Haiti’s ambassador to the UN, said that he expected the port to be fully functional again within two weeks.[202]

The U.S. Navy listed its resources in the area as "17 ships, 48 helicopters and 12 fixed-wing aircraft" in addition to 10,000 sailors and Marines.[203] The Navy had conducted 336 air deliveries, delivered 32,400 US gallons (123,000 l; 27,000 imp gal) of water, 532,440 bottles of water, 111,082 meals and 9,000 lb (4,100 kg) of medical supplies by 20 January. Hospital ship Comfort began operations on 20 January, completing the arrival of the first group of sea-base vessels; this came as a new flotilla of USN ships were assigned to Haiti, including survey vessels, ferries, elements of the maritime prepositioning and underway replenishment fleets, and a further three amphibious operations ships, including another helicopter carrier, USS Nassau (LHA-4).[204]

Landing ships move supplies onshore from the rescue fleet

On 22 January the UN and United States formalised the coordination of relief efforts by signing an agreement giving the U.S. responsibility for the ports, airports and roads, and making the UN and Haitian authorities responsible for law and order. The UN stated that it had resisted formalising the organization of the relief effort to allow as much leeway as possible for those wishing to assist in the relief effort, but with the new agreement "we’re leaving that emergency phase behind". The UN also urged organizations to coordinate aid efforts through its mission in Haiti to allow for better scheduling of the arrival of supplies.[202] On 23 January the Haitian government officially called off the search for survivors, and most search and rescue teams began to prepare to leave the country.[205] However, as late as 8 February 2010, survivors were still being discovered, as in the case of Evan Muncie, 28, found in the rubble of a grocery store.[206]

On 5 February, ten Baptist missionaries from Idaho led by Laura Silsby were charged with criminal association and kidnapping for trying to smuggle 33 children out of Haiti. The missionaries claimed they were rescuing orphaned children but investigations revealed that more than 20 of the children had been taken from their parents after they were told the children would have a better life in America. In an interview, the United States Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten, stated that the U.S. justice system would not interfere and that "the Haitian justice system will do what it has to do."[207] By 9 March 2010, all but Silsby were deported and she remained incarcerated.[208]

Social networking is being (was) used to help the structure for coordination on the ground.[209][210][211][212]

On 10 April, due to the potential threat of mudslides and flooding from the upcoming rainy season, the Haitian government began operations to move thousands of refugees to a more secure location north of the capital.[213]


Haitians await the opening of a supply depot, 16 January

U.S. President Barack Obama announced that former presidents Bill Clinton, who also acts as the UN special envoy to Haiti, and George W. Bush would coordinate efforts to raise funds for Haiti's recovery. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Haiti on 16 January to survey the damage and stated that US$48 million had been raised already in the U.S. to help Haiti recover.[214] Following the meeting with Secretary Clinton, President Préval stated that the highest priorities in Haiti's recovery were establishing a working government, clearing roads, and ensuring the streets were cleared of bodies to improve sanitary conditions.[215]

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden stated on 16 January that President Obama "does not view this as a humanitarian mission with a life cycle of a month. This will still be on our radar screen long after it's off the crawler at CNN. This is going to be a long slog."[216]

Planes loaded with aid supplies crowd the tarmac at Port-au-Prince airport, waiting to be unloaded, 18 January

Trade and Industry Minister Josseline Colimon Fethiere estimated that the earthquake's toll on the Haitian economy would be massive, with one in five jobs lost.[217] In response to the earthquake, foreign governments offered badly needed financial aid. The European Union promised €330 million for emergency and long-term aid. Brazil announced R$375 million for long-term recovery aid, R$25 million of which in immediate funds.[218] The United Kingdom's Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander called the result of the earthquake an "almost unprecedented level of devastation", and committed the UK to ₤20 million in aid, while France promised €10 million. Italy announced it would waive repayment of the €40 million it had loaned to Haiti,[159] and the World Bank waived the country's debt repayments for five years.[219] On 14 January, the U.S. government announced it would give US$100 million to the aid effort and pledged that the people of Haiti "will not be forgotten".[220]

The UN Development Programme employed hundreds of Haitians to clear roads and to make fuel pellets in a cash-for-work scheme

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the government of Canada announced that it would match the donations of Canadians up to a total of C$50 million.[221] After a United Nations call for help for the people affected by the earthquake, Canada pledged an additional C$60 million in aid on 19 January 2010, bringing Canada's total contribution to C$135 million.[222] By 8 February 2010, the federal International Co-operation Department, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), had already provided about C$85 million in humanitarian aid through UN agencies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and to organizations such as CARE, Médecins du Monde, Save the Children, Oxfam Quebec, the Centre for International Studies and Co-operation, and World Vision.[223] On 23 January 2010, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the federal government had lifted the limit on the amount of money allocated for matching individual donations to relief efforts,[224] and that the federal government would continue to match individual donations until 12 February 2010; by the deadline, Canadians had privately raised C$220 million.[225] On top of matching donations, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda pledged an additional C$290 million in long-term relief to be spent between 2010 and 2012, including C$8 million in debt relief to Haiti, part of a broader cancellation of the country's overall World Bank debt.[225] The government's commitment to provide C$550 million in aid and debt relief and Canadians' individual donations amount to a total of CAD$770 million.[226]

In addition to Canada's federal government, the governments of several of the provinces and territories of Canada also announced that they would provide immediate emergency aid to Haiti.[227][228][228][229] On 18 January 2010, the province of Quebec, whose largest city - Montreal - houses the world's largest Haitian diaspora, pledged C$3 million in emergency aid.[230] Both the provincial government of Quebec and the Canadian federal government reaffirmed their commitment to rebuilding Haiti at the 2010 Francophonie Summit; Prime Minister Harper used his opening speech to "tell the head of the Haitian delegation to keep up their spirits" and to urge other nations to continue to support recovery efforts.[231]

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal offered interested Haitians free land in Senegal; depending on how many respond to the offer, this could include up to an entire region.[232]

A U.S. mobile air traffic control tower is moved to Haiti by a Russian transport plane(An-124)

Prime Minister Bellerive announced that from 20 January, people would be helped to relocate outside the zone of devastation, to areas where they may be able to rely on relatives or better fend for themselves; people who have been made homeless would be relocated to the makeshift camps created by residents within the city, where a more focused delivery of aid and sanitation could be achieved.[159] Port-au-Prince, according to an international studies professor at the University of Miami, was ill-equipped before the disaster to sustain the number of people who had migrated there from the countryside over the past ten years to find work.[233] After the earthquake, thousands of Port-au-Prince residents began returning to the rural towns they came from.[234]

On 25 January a one-day conference was held in Montreal to assess the relief effort and discuss further plans. Prime Minister Bellerive told delegates from 20 countries that Haiti would need "massive support" for its recovery from the international community. A donors' conference was expected to be held at the UN headquarters in New York in March,[219] however, took more than three months to hold the UN conference. The 26-member international Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, headed by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, convened in June 2010.[235] That committee is overseeing the $5.3 billion pledged internationally for the first two years of Haiti's reconstruction.[236]

The Netherlands sponsored a project, called Radio555. The Dutch radio channels 3FM, Radio 538 and Radio Veronica all broadcast under the name of Radio555, funded by a contribution of €80 million.[237] [238]

Several organizations of the U.S. building industry and government, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the International Code Council, among others, are compiling a "Haiti Toolkit" coordinated by the National Institute of Building Sciences. The toolkit would comprise building technology resources and best practices for consideration by the Haitian government with the goal of creating a more resilient infrastructure to prevent future losses of life. [239]

Immediately following the earthquake, Real Medicine Foundation began providing medical staffing, in-kind medical supplies and strategic coordination to help meet the surging needs of the health crisis on the ground. Working in close partnership with other relief organizations, Real Medicine organized deployments of volunteer medical specialists to meet the needs of partner hospitals and clinics at the Haiti–Dominican Republic border and in Port-au-Prince, provided direct funding, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to local health facilities and partner hospitals, provided advisory services and coordination to local health facilities, including physical therapy support, and coordinated mobile health outreaches, field clinics and food supplies to outlying villages overlooked in the relief effort.[240]

On 15 January 2011, the Catholic Relief Services announced a US$200 million (€195 million), five-year relief and reconstruction program that covers shelter, health, livelihoods, and child protection among its program areas.[241]

Status of the recovery

As much as 98% of the rubble from the quake remained uncleared by July 2010. An estimated 26 million cubic yards (20 million cubic meters) remained, making most of the capital impassable,[238] and thousands of bodies remained in the rubble. The number of people in relief camps of tents and tarps since the quake was 1.6 million, and almost no transitional housing had been built. Most of the camps had no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal, and the tents were beginning to fall apart. Crime in the camps was widespread, especially against women and girls. Between 23 major charities, $1.1 billion had been collected for Haiti for relief efforts, but only two percent of the money had been released.[242][243] According to a CBS report, $3.1 billion had been pledged for humanitarian aid and was used to pay for field hospitals, plastic tarps, bandages, and food, plus salaries, transportation and upkeep of relief workers. By May 2010, enough aid had been raised internationally to give each displaced family a cheque for $37,000.[244]

In July 2010, CNN returned to Port-au-Prince and reported, "It looks like the quake just happened yesterday", and Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the United Nations office of humanitarian affairs in Haiti, said that six months from that time it may still look the same. The Haitian government said it was unable to tackle debris clean-up or the resettlement of the homeless because it must prepare for the hurricane season. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive stated, "The real priority of the government is to protect the population from the next hurricane season, and most of our effort right now is going right now in that direction."[245]

Speaking of the difficulties of living in one of the many camps, one refugee told a reporter, "They told us when we were coming here, that we would live well. But what we saw when we got here and the way we lived here, it's the contrary. The place where we are here when it's hot, the sun makes the tents hot, very hot. And also the wind comes and blows the tents and wrecks them". When asked what needs to happen now, he replied, "...In the situation we're living here in the tents, we can't continue like that anymore. We would ask them as soon as possible to give us the real houses that they said they were going to give us so that our situation could improve. Because the tents are torn, when it rains, rain comes in. We have very exemplary or a very indicative block, Block 6. It's a zone which is completely unpassable when it rains".[246]

Land ownership is a particular problem for rebuilding because so many pre-quake homes were not officially registered. "Even before the national registry fell under the rubble, land tenure was always a complex and contentious issue in Haiti. Many areas of Port-au-Prince were settled either by tonton makout – Duvalier's death squads - given land for their service or by squatters. In many cases land ownership was never officially registered. Even if this logistical logjam were to be cleared, the vast majority of Port-au-Prince residents, up to 85%, did not own their homes before the earthquake."[247]

In September 2010 there were over one million refugees still living in tents, and the humanitarian situation was characterized as still being in the emergency phase, according to the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernard Auza. He went on to say that the number was rising instead of diminishing, and reported that the state had decided to first rebuild downtown Port-au-Prince and a new government center, but reconstruction had not yet begun.[248]

In October 2010, Refugees International criticised the aid agencies for being "dysfunctional" and "inexperienced". "The people of Haiti are still living in a state of emergency, with a humanitarian response that appears paralysed. Gang leaders or land owners are intimidating the displaced. Sexual, domestic, and gang violence in and around the camps is rising. Action is urgently needed to protect the basic human rights of people displaced by the earthquake."[249] They claimed that rape of Haitian women and girls who have been living in camps since the January earthquake is increasing, in part, because the United Nations isn’t doing enough to protect them.[250] In October, a cholera epidemic broke out, probably introduced by foreign aid workers. Cholera most often affects poor countries with limited access to clean water and proper sanitation. By the end of 2010, more than 3,333 had died at a rate of about 50 deaths a day.[251]

A few days before the first anniversary of the quake, Oxfam published a report on the status of the recovery. According to the report, relief and recovery are at a standstill due to government inaction and indecision on the part of the donor countries. The report states, "One year on, only five percent of the rubble has been cleared and only 15 percent of the required basic and temporary houses have been built. House building on a large scale cannot be started before the enormous amount of rubble is cleared. The government and donors must prioritize this most basic step toward helping people return home".[252] Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said "The dysfunction has been aided unabated by the way the international community has organized itself, where pledges have been made and they haven't followed through [and] where they come to the table with their own agendas and own priorities. Most donors provided funds for transitional housing but very little money for clearing rubble or repairing houses". Fox states that in many instances rubble removal "means it was [moved] off someone's property onto the road in front of the property". [253][254]

According to a UNICEF report, "Still today more than one million people remain displaced, living in crowded camps where livelihoods, shelter and services are still hardly sufficient for children to stay healthy".[255] The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission was set up in April 2010 and led by former US President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive to facilitate the flow of funds toward reconstruction projects and to help Haitian ministries with implementation. As of January 2011 no major reconstruction had started.[252] Amnesty International reported that armed men prey with impunity on girls and women in displacement camps, worsening the trauma of having lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones.[256]

On the first anniversary of the earthquake, Haitian-born Michaëlle Jean, who served as the Governor General of Canada at the time of the disaster and who became United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Special Envoy for Haiti on 8 November 2010, voiced her anger at the slow rate of aid delivery, placing much of the blame on the international community for abandoning its commitments. In a public letter co-authored with UNESCO head Irina Bokova, Jean said, "As time passes, what began as a natural disaster is becoming a disgraceful reflection on the international community."[257]

Disputed figures controversy

On May 31, 2011, BBC News reported that a new report challenges Haiti earthquake death toll. "Significantly fewer people died or were left homeless by last year's earthquake in Haiti than claimed by the country's leaders, a draft report commissioned by the US government has said. The unpublished report puts the death toll between 46,000 and 85,000. Haiti's government says about 316,000 died. It also suggests many of those still living in tent cities did not lose their homes in the disaster. The draft report, which has yet to be released publicly, is based on a survey commissioned by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and draws its numbers from door-to-door surveys carried out over 29 days in January 2011." [258]

Richard Garfield, a professor of public health at Columbia University, and researchers from the Center for Disaster Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden also dispute the Haitian government's figures. Said Garfield in accusing global aid groups of inflating death tolls to boost donor interest, "Bigger numbers mean some greater potential fundraising ability. The mentality is if everybody else is inflating their numbers, we can't be left out."[259]

See also

Portal icon Haiti portal
Portal icon Disasters portal


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Further reading

  • TIME, Haiti; Richar Stengel, Nancy Gibbs, Timothy Fadek, Shaul Schwarz, Amy Wilentz, Bryan Walsh and Bill Clinton (2010). Michael Elliot, Jeffery Kluger, Richard Lacayo and Mary Beth Protomastro. ed. Earthquake Haiti: Tragedy and Hope. New York: TIME Inc. Home Entertainment: Richard Fraiman. p. 80. ISBN 1-60320-163-7. 

External links

Coordinates: 18°27′25″N 72°31′59″W / 18.457°N 72.533°W / 18.457; -72.533

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