Wednesday 17 January 2018

Haiti remembers devastating quake

Bill Clinton was among those attending a memorial service for victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (AP)
Bill Clinton was among those attending a memorial service for victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (AP)

President Michel Martelly has urged Haitians to recall the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives in a devastating earthquake three years ago, marking the disaster's anniversary with a simple ceremony.

Former US president Bill Clinton joined Mr Martelly later in the day for a similarly quiet wreath-laying commemoration.

"Haitian people, hand in hand, we remember what has gone," Mr Martelly said in the morning as a gigantic Haitian flag flew at half-mast before him on the front lawn of the former National Palace, a pile of tangled steel reinforcement bars nearby. "Hand in hand, we're remembering, we're remembering January 12."

Mr Martelly thanked other countries and international organisations for their help since the January 12, 2010, disaster.

Clad in black, several dozen senior government officials gathered where the opulent white palace stood before it collapsed in the quake and was later demolished.

Foreign diplomats and Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova, earlier named by Mr Martelly as one of Haiti's goodwill ambassadors, were also there.

In the speech, Mr Martelly announced a government contest seeking designs for a monument to honour those who died in the quake. He also said the government had just released a new construction code aimed at ensuring new buildings are seismically resistant in hopes of preventing the same kind of catastrophic damage in any future earthquake.

In the late morning, Mr Clinton, the UN special envoy to Haiti, joined Mr Martelly and prime minister Laurent Lamothe in placing a wreath at a mass burial site north of the capital of Port-au-Prince. None of the three spoke at the event.

Mr Clinton expressed hope about Haiti's future in brief comments to reporters after the ceremony. He said: "I think that you will see, particularly in the economic sphere, a lot more in the coming year, where Haiti is projected to have the highest growth rate in the Caribbean. Well, we hope to speed up some of the infrastructure. We have to repair the agriculture and ... build a lot more houses. We've got to get those people out of those tents."

Haiti's previous presidential administration said 316,000 people were killed but no one really knows how many died. The disaster displaced more than a million others.

Press Association

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