Haitin katastrofista vuosi

Humanitaariset katastrofit kaukana tropiikissa jäävät yleensä etäisiksi meille suomalaisille lukijoille. Itse en olisi varmaankaan tasan vuosi sitten ollut liiemmin järkyttynyt Haitin satojen tuhansien ihmisten kohtalosta, ellen olis saanut sähköpostia Haitista.

Teksti: Jukka Aronen

Sähköpostin välitti siskoni, joka oli saanut sen Haitissa työskentelevältä yhdysvaltalaiselta ystävältään.
Teksti, vaikkakin välikäden kautta tullut, kuvaili tarkkaan ensimmäisten hetkien tuntemukset – kun järistys oli juuri kääntänyt yhden ihmisen maailman päälaelleen, ikuisesti.
Viesti ei ole kaikkensa menettäneeltä haitilaiselta, mutta osaan ehkä jopa paremmin asettua ulkomaalaisen kehitysyhteistyötekijän saappaisiin.
Julkaisen tässä tekstin vahvasti lyhennettynä. Olen myös poistanut paikannimiä ja muita yksityiskohtia, joista kirjoittajan voisi tunnistaa – YK:lla kun ollaan tarkkoja näistä asioista.
From: xxxxx
Subject: News from Haiti
To: xxxxx
Date: Friday, January 15, 2010
Dear Friends,
Thank you so much for your outpourings of sympathy and your
concern. Yes, I’m safe and so is my apartment and my cat.
I got to work this morning and found 90 e-mails in my inbox which never happened before. Our internet has been down since the quake happened and I’ve therefore been away from it for 3-4 days.
I will not be able to reply to all of you individually as we are very stretched here as you can imagine.
What I did do yesterday though, in a day I spent at home, was to describe my experience so far and to update it as of NOW.
The attached will tell you all.
Flights out to Miami are being organized for those who want to go. For now, I’m staying.
With lots of love and gratitude to you for your support and
This is being written exactly 48 hours after the earthquake struck – at 4.53 pm on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.
At that moment, I truly believe I went through one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.
My boss and I were in our office when there was a loud rumble which increased in magnitude over about 10 seconds, during which the bookcases and filing cabinets started to shake then topple, spilling their contents on the ground, the monitors fell off the computers and to the floor, the table holding our microwave and dishes buckled and the electric cables ripped from their sockets.
We bolted out the door to the open space outside and dropped to the ground, only to see the paving stones beneath us go into a sea-like wave and buckle. We just covered our heads and prayed.
Our Chief of Admin later told us that the safe in his office which is over 6ft tall and weighs 750 lbs (it took 10 men with wheels and blocks to get it into his office when it was first delivered) moved across the floor as if it was a feather.
Amazingly not many of our staff panicked – there were only a few screams – I think it was all over in about 20 seconds but the effect will leave a mark on Haiti forever. Most people were just in a huge state of shock and in the hours that immediately followed, when more information became known, the extent of the devastation was just too incredible to contemplate.
Of course, the roads became completely engulfed as motorists panicked, abandoned their cars where they were and ran away in terror.
Staff whose offices were damaged so much that they couldn’t stay inside, brought chairs and a small group gathered on the central pathway of the base, right outside the office of the Chief of Admin, waiting for news or to be assigned tasks.
About 10 minutes after the quake hit, I was able to reach my landlady on the cell phone and she told me my building was still standing with no damage – others in different parts of the city were not as lucky. Very soon after that call, all cellular services went down, our landlines were not working and our internet was down. We were completely marooned.
Due to damage to our plumbing, they shut off the water, so with no toilet flushing and no running water to wash your hands or dishes, let alone take a shower, you can imagine the state the bathrooms were in very quickly.
Through the night, more and more people started arriving from HQ, with torn and bloody clothes, injured, shocked, covered in cement dust, some barefoot, some hardly able to walk – it was very unreal. Two canvas tents were set up with cots to serve as First Aid centres.
By the time daylight broke, there were 60 people in there, with the most badly injured being taken to the UN hospital across the road. Some were in so much pain they were screaming. It was just awful. I tended to some of the people as they were short-handed, everybody was exhausted as no-one could sleep due to the repeated tremors we were having and sheer volume of work to do.
They also brought in 11 dead bodies of UN staff and we needed to convert a refrigerated reefer, usually used for food, into a makeshift morgue.
Another tremor just happened as I am writing this. My laptop is shaking.
There is a Chinese search and rescue team with heavy machinery, digging amongst the rubble at our Mission HQ in the hope of finding survivors but it is looking more and more hopeless as time goes on. My best friend Mary was in the building at the time and I am now fearing the worst.
Please keep us in your thoughts.