FOCUS : Haiti catastrophe: God’s wrath or plain misfortune?

It’s over a fortnight since Haiti an impoverished Western Hemisphere island on the Caribbean suffered an earthquake which will go down history as one of the most vicious and horrendous natural catastrophes to ravage mankind in recent history. I followed a teary story of a man who against all odds didn’t lose hope that his wife was still alive buried beneath the rubble of a commercial bank where she worked. He looked and listened intently as rescue teams unearthed dead bodies but he kept there helping them and hoping that he would find his wife alive.
An earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area in 200 years rocked Haiti on Tuesday. The earthquake had a preliminary. (Net photo)
An earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area in 200 years rocked Haiti on Tuesday. The earthquake had a preliminary. (Net photo)

It’s over a fortnight since Haiti an impoverished Western Hemisphere island on the Caribbean suffered an earthquake which will go down history as one of the most vicious and horrendous natural catastrophes to ravage mankind in recent history. 

I followed a teary story of a man who against all odds didn’t lose hope that his wife was still alive buried beneath the rubble of a commercial bank where she worked. He looked and listened intently as rescue teams unearthed dead bodies but he kept there helping them and hoping that he would find his wife alive.

Finally he heard his wife’s voice groaning and calling for help. Rescue teams identified her location and after a swift analysis of her situation they realised she had a smashed palm and the rest of her was alright. While still under the rubble she said she will always love her husband and that she owes him the world.

There are a number of heart-wrenching stories reminiscent of the horrors that befell Rwanda in the April of 1994 only that for the horrors in Rwanda, it was man getting rid of fellow man, while for poor Haiti it’s completely a natural calamity which took them by surprise.

Many people especially from religious circles have attributed the debacle to the fact that Haitians were so much engrossed in superstitions and widespread witchcraft practices which aroused God’s wrath, that what happened in Haiti was punishment, there by relating the calamity to the Biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The few movies I have watched about Haiti have screamed three outstanding statements. One is that the island believes and practices witchcraft at a more obvious level, the second is that the country is ravaged by civil wars and the third is that it is very poor.

Despite the stereotypes and the different attributions of the catastrophe, the truth remains that hundreds of thousands of people have perished and the country shaken to the foundation and life will never be the same in Haiti. 

Photos taken by agencies show Port-au-Prince where the earthquake hit strongest lying in ruins, teary and bewildered faces and others bandaged.

It is so heart warming to find that the world over has responded overwhelmingly positive to the plight of the Haitians at this time when they need foreign assistance so much.

In the past days rescue and relief agencies like Red Cross, World Vision and others including individual countries poured in Haiti to shore up rescue and relief to the affected people.

Mid-week President Barack Obama asked former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to oversee fundraising efforts on behalf of Haiti.

Of all countries, Haiti was extremely ill prepared for a disaster of that calibre. On top of persistent political instabilities which have partially led to the weakening of Haiti’s economy, the country had been previously ravaged by the Hurricane Katrina and many structures had been destroyed, before healing from that, it gets devastated by the mother of all earthquakes.

The catastrophe first of all paralysed all the internal institutions that would have helped to do damage control. For instance the biggest hospital where people would have been treated was also hit by the earthquake and it lay in ruins.

It was also reported that three thousand hardened criminals who fled the national prison when it was damaged in the quake also came back to society and began haunting survivors and relief agencies which partially frustrated relief work.

The Haitian government late this week said at least 75,000 died in the quake last week, while 250,000 were injured and a million left homeless. Some officials have spoken of a final death toll as high as 200,000.

53 orphans who belonged to an orphanage which was destroyed by the earthquake were mid-week transferred to Pittsburgh in the US as awaits adoption processes, while other 106 were flown to the Netherlands.

Right now what should matter is how mankind can help Haiti get back to its feet rather than whether it was God’s wrath. We should all by now know what causes earthquakes.

Gahimore@yahoo.com

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