At least 230,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 11, 2010, less than ten miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 300,000 sustained injuries. A staggering 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. Many parts of the populous city were reduced to rubble – interspersed with flattened cars, twisted metal, broken furniture, and personal possessions.
Over one million Haitians were left homeless by the disaster. Most of them set up temporary shelters under tarps, bed sheets, and cardboard in parks, on sidewalks, on islands in traffic circles, and even on the streets themselves.
Dave Mann, Univers Medical Centre’s financial director, provided the following account via email six days after the earthquake:
“Just a quick report concerning the return of our relief team [from the first trip to Port-au-Prince]. The relief team returned early this morning (Sunday) around 2:00 am Hugues Bastien’s [Director of Univers Medical Centre] verbal report can be summed up in the word which was reiterated in virtually every one of his sentences – awful. The capital city is destroyed. There is no food, clean water, or sanitation. The few remaining medical facilities are absolutely overwhelmed. All of Port-au-Prince is in ruins.
...Several senators, other top governmental officials, heads of police stations, and many UN personnel died – and untold tens of thousands more. I don’t know if we ever will have an accurate count of the dead. Estimates range from 50,000 to 500,000. Some bodies have already been covered in mass graves and many are uncounted under the rubble. But still many, many corpses are lying exposed, bloated, and stinking. People are becoming accustomed to them, sitting next to them, sleeping next to them, for lack of any place else to go...”