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Sunday 31 August 2014

Haiti quake anniversary marked

Published 12/01/2013 | 02:25

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Residents of a camp for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (AP)
People work to clean up earthquake damage in Haiti (AP)

The Haitian government plans a low-key ceremony to mark the third anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the country and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

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President Michel Martelly will preside over a subdued memorial on the grounds of the former National Palace, which was destroyed in the disaster and later demolished. Senior government officials and diplomats are expected to attend.

Mr Martelly said he hopes the poor Caribbean nation's people use the anniversary of the 2010 disaster to think about how they can improve their lives. He said: "The main thing for me is to use this day to plunge Haitians into deep reflection."

Mr Martelly is to give a speech and then go to a mass grave north of the capital to lay a wreath. Former US president Bill Clinton, the UN special envoy to Haiti, will also visit the burial site.

The United Nations plans a small private memorial. Last year, the UN held a service to remember its 102 employees who died - the biggest loss of life of UN personnel in a single disaster.

Haiti's government said the quake killed about 316,000 people. An additional 1.5 million people landed in impromptu settlements around the capital and other cities in the south.

People have moved out of the more visible camps in public plazas but there are still more than 350,000 people living in the camps, according to the International Organisation of Migration, a humanitarian group that helps people displaced by disaster and conflict.

The reconstruction effort has been slow to take hold because of political paralysis, the level of devastation and a trickle of aid.

The government said that this year January 12 will not be a holiday marking the earthquake as in the last two years. But it said in a statement it has asked that the Haitian flag be flown at half-mast and that nightclubs be closed.

Officials last year noted the occasion with back-to-back news conferences and meetings with Mr Clinton in attendance and foreign aid groups touting their accomplishments.

Press Association

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