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Lives reduced to rubble: Remembering the Haiti earthquake five years on

More than 220,000 people lost their lives in the disaster.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

FIVE YEARS AGO today, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti.

More than 220,000 people lost their lives in the disaster and 330,000 others were injured. Large parts of the capital city of Port-au-Prince were reduced to rubble.

Source: Gerald Herbert/AP/PA

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Describing the moment the earthquake rattled his office in Port-au-Prince, Waterford man Patrick Doyle said the sheer colossal power hammering the building was “like a giant trying to rip the entire structure from its foundation”.

His office was on the top floor of the tallest building in Haiti. The Irish man has written a book about the earthquake, to coincide with the five year anniversary.

I was screaming at the top of my lungs but I could barely even hear my own voice over the moans of the moving walls. I ran around to the other side of my desk. It felt as if time was running very, very slowly. Like one of those dreams where you can’t get your legs to move fast enough. I was convinced that the roof was about to collapse on top of us or my office walls would peel away from the inner structure any second.

In the aftermath, 1.5 million people were left homeless. At the time, it was rendered one of the world’s biggest humanitarian emergencies, in a country that was already crippled by chronic poverty and weak government institutions.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Speaking this week about the Irish public’s response to the disaster, Irish charity Goal said it was “astounding”, with people donating millions of euro to provide the assistance needed.

Irish charities and aid workers were some of the first on the scene and five years on, they continue to work with and for Haitian men, women and children to build safe, strong and resilient Haitian communities that help bring lasting change – and hope for a brighter future.

The charity released these images of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake to mark the fifth anniversary:

hait2 The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Port-au-Prince, built between 1884 and 1914, was destroyed in the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Plans have been in place for a number of years to reconstruct the cathedral. Source: GOAL

haiti1 “I arrived in Haiti 24 hours after the disaster struck. I remember the shock of walking through the rubble-filled streets and seeing people desperately digging for signs of life, or others wandering aimlessly around what was once their home. It was a devastating scene.” – Darren Hanniffy from Offaly. Source: GOAL

 

haiti3 “I will never forget the moment that this lady took hold of my hand and told me of all that she had lost. I had no words for her. I just listened and hoped that we could help her in some way.” – James Kelly from Limerick. Source: GOAL

haiti4 “With so many homes destroyed, thousands upon thousands of families had simply nowhere to go. All of the parks, fields and empty plots of land were already occupied so they set down wherever they could.” – James Kelly from Limerick. Source: GOAL

haiti5 “Haiti's people are incredibly resilient. In my time there, we responded to five different emergencies (a hurricane, a cholera outbreak and earthquakes). They are hugely enterprising, and with the right support, the country has a very bright future.” – Derek Butler from Westmeath. Source: GOAL

Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken also said that in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, people in Ireland contributed generously to the emergency response and the longer-term work to help survivors get back on their feet.

This charity alone has reached 594,310 Haitians. It has published a report today to highlight the the work done in the country that was supported by the generosity of Irish people in response to the crisis.

Though Haiti has come a long way, the scars remain and people continue to struggle. Christian Aid Country manager Prospery Raymond, who was in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake said the majority of Haitians are still trapped in poverty. More than 85,000 are still displaced, living in temporary camps.

Meanwhile, there are still many barriers to long-term development, including past and present political instability, environmental degradation, vulnerability to natural disasters and weak governance.

Tourism has evolved, however, with more hotels being built and many Haitians who lived overseas returning to invest in their home country.

“While I am optimistic about our future, this fifth anniversary comes at a time of political unrest. Recent weeks have seen public demonstrations over the failure of the administration to hold long-anticipated elections,” commented Raymond.

“The situation is tense. I hope our leaders will resolve the political crisis and find the best solution for the Haitian people. Otherwise, this situation could undo all the good work that has been achieved over the last five years.”

Read: Tropical storm Isaac makes landfall in Haiti>

Read: 9 striking photos from some of the worst crises of the past 40 years>

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