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Haiti – the good news or the bad first?

Posted by Lindy on October 23, 2010

Lets go for the good news:,0,1952312.story


Randal Perkins of Pompano Beach watched with satisfaction as his $400,000 hydraulic excavator clawed into a towering pile of concrete chunks in the shattered heart of this city.

“This is what the people have been waiting for,” Perkins as a crowd of bystanders mesmerized for hours by the demolition and removal of a collapsed funeral home.

Perkins had been waiting, too, with increasing impatience, for the cleanup of Haiti to begin. Chief executive of a Florida-based disaster recovery company, he had made a $25 million gamble that he could capitalize on the Jan. 12 earthquake. He had partnered with a Haitian conglomerate, imported a dozen shiploads of heavy equipment and set up a state-of-the-art base camp here — but then, nothing.

It has been obvious since January that clearing the wreckage is necessary for this country’s reconstruction. But the problem was so big and complex that the government and donors got stuck in visionary mode, planning the future while the present remained mired in rubble.

By late summer, however, the need to tackle the earthquake damage directly became so glaring that some initial steps were taken. The government tendered its first cleanup contract to Perkins’ Haiti Recovery Group. Worth $7.5 million to $13.5 million — nobody would be more precise — the contract represented a minuscule piece of a debris removal operation expected to cost $1.2 billion.

He knows that companies like his are sometimes seen as disaster vultures but dismisses the criticism.

“People always say you make money off other people’s misery,” Perkins said. “But, listen, somebody’s got to do the work.”

The government is paying from $32.50 to $58 a cubic yard for debris removal. That is considerably more than the American government paid contractors after Hurricane Katrina. But the work in Haiti, contractors say, is tougher: Trucks can haul fewer loads a day because of bad roads; fuel costs are higher; buildings have to be demolished. On the other hand, labour costs are far lower. The Haitians Perkins has hired and trained — close to 100, he said — are getting $1,000 a month, a substantial wage in Haiti, though much less than the $450 to $500 a day he is paying American machine operators here.

Now for the bad news:

Cholera outbreak spreads toward Haiti’s capital

An outbreak of cholera has spread outside a rural valley in central Haiti, intensifying worries the disease could reach squalid tarp camps that house hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors in the capital. By Saturday more than 200 were confirmed dead in the poor Caribbean nation’s worst health crisis since the Jan. 12 quake, and authorities said more than 2,000 were sick.

The cholera outbreak has been centred in the central Artibonite region, but at least five cases were confirmed in Arcahaie, a town closer to the quake-devastated capital, Port-au-Prince. Another four cases were reported in Limbe, a small northern municipality.The sick include 50 inmates at a prison in Mirebalais, just north of Port-au-Prince.

Health officials are fearful about the outbreak spreading into the capital, where thousands and thousands of people are living in unsanitary conditions in refugee camps.

Aid groups and the government were rushing in medical and relief supplies, including 10,000 boxes of water purification, according to the World Health Organization.

Cholera was not present in Haiti before the earthquake, but experts had warned that conditions were ripe for disease to strike in areas with limited access to clean water. Cholera is a bacterial infection spread through contaminated water. It causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration and death within hours.




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