Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Haiti Earthquake

The Jan. 12 earthquake that rocked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince may not have been the highest-magnitude tremor in recent memory, but it certainly seemed the most cataclysmic. Within hours, more than a million people became homeless. Buildings across much of the city and its suburbs were reduced to rubble. Some 230,000 people died, and hundreds of thousands of others were injured. The international response was swift, with dozens of countries sending aid, rescue teams and military personnel to stabilize the situation. But the damage has been devastating and profound in what is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Tens of thousands remain in ramshackle tent cities that from the beginning have been short on or totally bereft of adequate provisions. Reports of rape are legion, and an epidemic of cholera has set in, killing more than 300 and leading to further calls for international relief. The hobbled Haitian government is unable to cope on its own — at times, outgoing President René Préval has seemed a bemused bystander, and it's unlikely that the results of upcoming elections can do much to change the bleak facts on the ground.