|A woman evicted from a camp in Port-au-Prince last week moved her things. Many say they have nowhere to go. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)|
Officials dismantle camps in Haiti city
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The mayor of a large city in the Haitian capital region has begun clearing out camps set up after last year’s earthquake, evicting hundreds of people amid heavy rains and the start of the hurricane season today.
Mayor Wilson Jeudy of Delmas city says the settlements — densely packed clusters of wooden shanties and tarps — have become staging areas for robberies, rapes, and other crimes. But panicked residents say they have nowhere else to live or seek shelter. The area has seen weeks of punishing rain.
“We don’t know where we’re going to go,’’ said Elise Antoine, a 27-year-old who has been living on the grounds of Ecole Foyer Saint Famille since shortly after the January 2010 earthquake.
Jeudy ordered police and security guards to clear at least three camps last week in this city at the edge of downtown Port-au-Prince. “We can’t give people a public square as a gift to set up tents favorable to gang activity,’’ he said in a radio interview.
The encampments cleared last week were in two public plazas and on the grounds of a Catholic school with several hundred families in each. Guards sliced up tents and tarps and tossed people’s belongings aside in early-morning raids, several witnesses told the Associated Press. A dozen people returned hours later to the school, saying they were simply hoping that the mayor wouldn’t force them out again.
More evictions are expected.
Saby Ketteny, a spokesman for the mayor, said they will move 250 families from a soccer field and sports center in Delmas so the public can use it once again.
The earthquake, which left much of the capital in ruins, left about 1.5 million people homeless and an estimated 680,000 are still living in the so-called temporary settlement camps, according to the Haitian government and the United Nations.
A draft of a recent study commissioned by the US government said there are no more than 375,000 still on the streets, but the State Department said the report has inconsistencies and was not ready to be released.
No one disputes that there are tens of thousands of Haitians in need of shelter as the tropical storm season looms. Haiti is particularly vulnerable to flooding because much of the landscape has been stripped of trees and many people live in flood-prone areas. A direct hit by a hurricane on Port-au-Prince is rare because of the mountains that surround the capital, but the outer bands of a storm can be dangerous, particularly with so many people still living under tarps and in simple wooden shanties.