Slow heroes


Slow heroes, 26 January 2010

The earthquake of the movies happened here: The earth opened, the sea rumbled forth and the street buckled. But unlike Hollywood, the heroes are slow to arrive.

“We have yet to get a good visit from either the authorities or the people they have asked to help us,”

said Macapagal Labarre, 43. “We would like to sleep in a tent, too,” said friend, James Seraphin, 29.

In the two weeks since Haiti’s biggest natural disaster upended this rural town west of Port-au-Prince and mere miles from the epicenter of the 7.0-magnitude quake, residents say they are not living. Just existing. Food and water are scarce. Red Cross tents, scattered here and there, are trickling in. Prices in the market have doubled. And life as the people of *Ti-Goave *know it, has forever changed.

“If I could just float on air, every time an aftershock happens, I would be happy,”

Jordany Fleurgiles, 27, said Monday morning, minutes after two more aftershocks. With much of the world and the Haitian government focused on Port-au-Prince, and even hard-hit Léogane receiving attention in recent days, the people of Petit-Goave say they feel like “dogs with a broken leash.”

The proof, they say, can be found in the reason the city doesn’t reek of death even after a 6.0-magnitude aftershock last week toppled buildings that the Jan. 12 massive quake barely left standing. “For us here in Petit-Goave, we don’t have a government. The chief of the government is “ZeZe,” said Seraphin, standing in the yard of the Le Relais de l’Empereur, a historic building turned into a posh hotel in the 1970s where young men were scavenging for clay bricks. “All we have are the people.”

ZeZe is Yvon Louis, a local funeral director, who has become a folk hero of sorts because he has the unfortunate label of having personally buried 365 bodies. Standing in the middle of the cemetery where brightly colored blue and white crypts adorn both sides, he points to the three massive graves — a coffin still visible in one. They are located in the center of the cemetery on the only path cars can use to travel inside. “I had no other choice,” he said of the location. After his truck broke down, he said, he was forced to burn the remaining bodies he had collected. (Miami Herald)

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