Haiti, destroyed and desperate

January 27, 2010

I crossed the border into Haiti from the Dominican Republic 36 hours after the earthquake hit. As we drove closer to Port-au-Prince, we began to see scenes of destruction and suffering, which only multiplied as we entered the city covered in smoke and in shock.

Residents walk at a destroyed area after a major earthquake hit the capital Port-au-Prince, January 14, 2010. Troops and planeloads of food and medicine streamed into Haiti on Thursday to aid a traumatized nation still rattled by aftershocks from the catastrophic earthquake that flattened homes and government buildings and buried countless people.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva
My first sensation was of absolute powerlessness; the pain, chaos and destruction were so overwhelming it seemed impossible to register it all. It was hard to know where to start, to find the exact words to describe everything that was happening and continues to happen. To translate all that it into images is a huge challenge.

Corpses of earthquake victims lie in a mass grave located on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince January 15, 2010. Thousands of people left hurt or homeless in Haiti's earthquake begged for food, water and medical assistance on Friday as the world rushed to deliver aid to survivors before their despair turned to anger. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
I had never been in a tragedy of this magnitude, or seen anything close. Every day that passed we realized the dimension of the destruction was even greater. Every time I explored what was behind a wall, in a garden or a plaza, inside a field hospital or in the ruins of a house, there would be more children who urgently needed food and medicine, more desperate men and women with no hope for the future.

A boy eats as he sit on his merchandise at the ruins of Petion Ville market  in Port-au-Prince, January 26, 2010. Haiti needs at least five to 10 years of reconstruction help after its people were "bloodied, martyred and ruined" by the devastating earthquake this month, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said on Monday.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva
The whole city is an immense refugee camp without basic services, water, electricity, or toilets, that disappears at night in the darkness of ruins. There is the impression of statelessness, of an absence of institutions to help or oversee.
The extreme poverty of Haiti compounds the problem. An earthquake here may be worse than practically anywhere on earth, because the houses were constructed with cheap materials, on dangerous slopes, without building codes. There were no emergency services capable of responding.

People look at a destroyed building in Port-au-Prince January 14, 2010. The death toll from Haiti's earthquake could be between 45,000 and 50,000, with a further three million people hurt or homeless, a senior Haitian Red Cross official said on Thursday.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Many people ask if journalists help in disasters. I don’t think we help directly. Our job is to trigger the response from institutions that do. This is what motivates us to come to these places, to point the eyes of the world toward people who are suffering and clamoring for help. We have to sensitize people to the situation through our pictures.

Haitians reach for bags of water delivered from a bus in Port-au-Prince January 16, 2010. Haitian authorities are rounding up troublemakers to prevent sporadic looting from turning into wider violence in the aftermath of the Caribbean nation's devastating earthquake, a senior security official said. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
I don’t know if the worst is over. All those who have died or are missing represent a deep loss. But the real sadness and concern now revolves around the challenges to come for the survivors who will have to fight to keep going in a destroyed country, where the help that is arriving seems like a drizzle in the desert.

Haitians queue to receive portions from U.S. forces at a food distribution zone in Port-au-Prince January 19, 2010. Thousands more U.S. troops will help U.N. peace keepers keep order on Haiti's increasingly lawless streets as tens of thousands of survivors wait desperately for aid.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva

To view a full selection of images from Haiti click here.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Oh My Gosh, I Feel so sad about what happened to Haiti but I have been praying for them.I also have been donating supplies and clothes for all of the kids.I hope everyone can get their life back on track and I will keep them in my prayers.!

Posted by kwanisha | Report as abusive

good information

Posted by juanyyeritza | Report as abusive

[…] more than 80 photographers arrived to cover the aftermath. As the Reuters photographer Jorge Silva observed, the situation they found was overwhelming and overpowering. By and large the images they produced […]

Posted by Thinking Images v.8: Haiti’s eternal present | David Campbell | Report as abusive