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Jason O'Brien: Desperate Haitians form a queue for survival

THEY queue to get water and food in. They queue to try to get themselves out. They queue at the supermarket. And they queue at the various money-transfer bureaux dotted around the capital.

Huge lines that snake around the block from dawn to dusk are now the most common sight in Port-au-Prince, outside of the ubiquitous rubble.

"Because so many buildings fell down, even if you have money in the bank, it is not always possible to get it but this is a way to get cash and then get supplies," said Jean Roudy-Ali (44), a lawyer who was waiting outside a bureau yesterday.

He was getting money wired in from Canada by a friend. Many Haitians are trying to make the return trip. The queue at the Canadian Embassy snaked around the block too, while a guard at a Canadian military hospital in Leogane told the Irish Independent that Haitians with Canadian passports were even turning up there, asking to be taken in.

"We have to ensure that the Haitians with education, qualifications and skills stay in the country," Mr Roudy-Ali said. "We have to do something to help ourselves -- we can't lose everything."

But the queues outside both the American and French embassies are no shorter.

Another increasingly-common sight on the streets of the capital is the bulldozers. Yesterday, the ministry of defence was razed, a bulldozer dumping out the rubble into a clear area and a team of five people looking through it for bodies, absent-mindedly picking up various justice files.

"The minister survived but there are a lot of staff who didn't," said one of those taking part in the search.

"They don't know how many. It's tough work."

It is estimated that the bodies of 60 children could still be buried in the Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs hospital in Petion Ville. What salary would you need to be paid to bulldoze that?

On the other hand, people desperately need cash.

"There are no insurance payouts for the average person to fall back on in Haiti," Azenord Charlemagne (56) pointed out.

Various NGOs, including Goal, are now organising cash-for-work schemes to get the economy up and running again and ensure that the country is soon self-sufficient.

Nobody could argue that the Haitians are afraid of work, even if over 60pc were unemployed before the quake. The shoes shiners, for example, were back on the street less than two days after the quake.

"I went into the countryside and sold a goat," Esperial Mespils (22) said, when asked how he was back out on his street corner in Peguy Ville so quickly, despite losing all his equipment in the quake.

"It was important to get back to work," he explained.

There was no queue for his services that day, he admitted. "I only had four or five," he said.

"Usually, it's a lot more. It's picked up since then."

But then the streets here are incredibly dusty.

Irish Independent