PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The normally clogged streets of Haiti’s capital turned quiet yesterday as businesses closed and people walked in solemn processions to prayer services marking the anniversary of the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history.
Many wore white, a color associated with mourning, and sang hymns as they navigated around collapsed buildings from the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, which left much of Port-au-Prince in ruins and, by the government’s imprecise estimate, killed more than 316,000 people.
Prayer groups thanked God for sparing them from the quake; others took advantage of the day to promote women’s rights and oppose the United Nations force that provides security in Haiti.
President Rene Preval and former US president Bill Clinton attended a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for a new National Tax Office to replace the one where many workers were killed.
Dignitaries from around the world are in Haiti to mark the anniversary. But they are also facing skepticism from a Haitian public that expected more progress toward reconstruction.
Aid groups say only about 5 percent of the rubble from the quake has been removed. At least a million displaced people, including 380,000 children, are still in 1,200 tent-and-shack encampments.
Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean said many people are still hopeful but there are limits to their patience.
“They have hope, which is faith, but they can only have hope and faith for so long,’’ Jean said.