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Rubble Constant Reminder of Haiti Quake
September 13, 2010

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The Haitian Earthquake

Eight months after a devastating earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people, Haiti's capital area remains inundated with rubble.

The greater Port-au-Prince area still bears a tremendous number of reminders of the January 12 7.0-magnitude earthquake, in the form of devastated buildings still dominating the landscape. Only 2 percent of the rubble created by the quake has been cleared, according to international officials.

More than a million cubic yards of rubble has already been removed, but the earthquake left tens of millions of cubic yards of ruined buildings in its wake. Among the hazards remaining are buildings still teetering, bricks still falling at random moments, and sidewalks still straining under the weight of entire buildings being dumped onto them.

Hampering cleanup efforts is, most notably, the lack of a single driving force in charge of the effort. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission has signed off on a rubble removal plan for just six neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, but even that set of events can't be completed because the neighborhoods haven't been chosen yet.

Also presenting a hazard to cleanup is a property records system that was in shambles before the quake struck. Removal crews have, in most cases so far, insisted on getting owners' permission before removing buildings reduced to bricks and mortar. If the people who owned those buildings died in the quake or left as a result of it, then permission to remove the razed materials might be difficult if not impossible to be found.

Another part of the uphill battle is that even though roads to the port have been cleared and heavy equipment has been brought in, many roads within the city and surrounding area are unpaved and inundated with mud, potholes, and other telling reminders that the wet and hurricane season followed the quake.

Tellingly, many Haitians are cleaning up their own rubble, one wheelbarrow at a time.

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