Friday, July 30, 2010


(AP) - By Jonathan M. Katz

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Distraught parents mourned the loss of two children in a camp for Haitian earthquake survivors Wednesday, a day after rains caused a wall to collapse on top of a row of tarp homes.

The family's tragedy is another reminder of the perilous conditions of an estimated 1.6 million people living under tarps and tents on dangerous ground six months after the quake devastated Port-au-Prince.

Enrique Joseph, a 30-year-old policeman, was on the job downtown Tuesday evening when his cell phone rang with the horrifying news: After losing his home in the quake, he had lost his makeshift home — and his 8-month-old son, Kesnel, and a 2-year-old nephew, Kika Leus, were under the wreckage.

He raced back to the Terrain Acra camp in the Delmas neighborhood, home to tens of thousands whose tarp homes blanket a hillside owned by one of Haiti's wealthiest families.

He was too late. The boys' lifeless bodies already were wrapped in sheets.

"If we knew the wall could fall, we would have moved," Joseph said, his eyes red with tears.

Little reconstruction has been done since the magnitude-7 quake pulverized the capital. Piles of rubble and thousands of collapsed buildings remain where they stood in January. Even transitional shelters remain a pipe dream for most.

Donors pledged $5.3 billion for two years of rebuilding at a March donors conference but less than 10 percent has been delivered. On Wednesday, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to partially fund the administration's $1.15 billion pledge to Haiti and sent it to President Barack Obama.

The threat of hurricanes lingers halfway through the summer. The USS Iwo Jima amphibious assault ship is anchored off Haiti's north coast this week to train its sailors and Marines in case they have to respond to storm damage.

It took no more than an isolated squall that swept over Joseph's camp to soften the ground around a 10-foot retaining wall beside a tennis court.

Suddenly it gave way, sending bricks crashing onto blue and gray tarps. The boys were crushed to death in their sleep and the tattered remnants of the shelter filled with mud and rainwater.

"The material things don't matter. I lost my papers, I lost everything. But I lost my son. That means I lost my life," Kika's 25-year-old mother, Ketlanda Leus, said, rocking back and forth and weeping beneath a neighbor's tarp.

After carrying the boys' bodies to the morgue at Haiti's badly underfunded general hospital, Joseph returned to search for a new space to build another tarp home for his five surviving family members. The policeman said he is desperate to get out.

"Anything can happen, anytime, inside these camps," he said.

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