August 26, 2012, 5h00pm
Today is Sunday.
In fact, it is not a very sunny day, but for many of us this is normal.
It only rains every once in a while, and very little water can be seen lying stagnant in the streets. The tropical storm has continued its path and the terrible winds of Friday are already a distant memory. The people are in the streets, the merchants too; they went to the church this morning in an attempt to return to the routine that was interrupted by the rains of Saturday. Only a few details remain to remind us of Isaac: fallen trees, twisted pieces of aluminium roofing, fallen electricity towers and deformed billboards.
Return to normality
Now that the worst has past, I can tell the people that call me: “everything has returned to normal”. Yesterday the answer would have been different: the main bridge which unites my city with the capital was cut, the River Gris surrounded a whole neighbourhood and made it impossible to evacuate anybody, another neighbourhood was completely flooded and those such as Saneli Jeune, a mother of 30 years, had to flee in the middle of the night, leaving behind all of her belongings. “I wasn’t sleeping, it would have been impossible with the wind and the noise of the aluminium roofs. Suddenly, I heard somebody cry “the water is arriving”. I had just enough time to pull my son and run through the flooding waters, which were coming up to my waist.
Marie Dominique Anglade, a mother of 22 years with 2 children, stopped in a refuge at the firemen’s offices of Croix-des-Bouquets. “I saw how the water was dragging at the clothes of my children. The only thing which surely remained in the house was my bed, which is very heavy.” Ironically, an old tree fell in the rear part of the refuge, destroying the roof and making an entrance for the water.
Life in the camps: until when?In one or two days, Marie Dominique and other residents of camp Marin 24 might return to their houses. They will clean everything that their neighbours have been able to recover, secure a few things here and there, and attempt to move on. Others, like the residents of camp Marassa 10, cannot be sure of finding anything on their return. Yesterday, returning to the field, my friend and co-worker Peleg Charles told me: “I was in a solid building and I don’t know how I survived this wind, honestly, I cannot imagine how they did it in the camps”. Jean Desrosiers Zacary, member of the camp committee of Marassa 10, explained that “They had to call the protection officer to evacuate the camp. As the one responsible for security, I had to stay. I am worried for those that went to the centre and I cannot say what will happen right now. Of course, if we find more plastics, we can raise our tents, but how long will we continue like this?
The director of programmes at Oxfam, Vincent Maurepas Jeudy, has affirmed: “When one lives in a tent, it only takes a gust of wind to take away our house. Many people that had very little have lost everything all over again. Now they have basic needs that include soap, toothbrushes, sheets and bedding, but what they really want is peace, a definitive solution to the fragile tents. This storm has given us a violent reminder that there still remains much to achieve in Haiti.”
A little is too much
As the day comes to its end, I begin to realise that the expression ‘return to normality’ is inappropriate for 400,000 of us. When it rains, I return home, safe; when it rains, others leave their tents… to be safe. On Friday night, many people that have spent two years fighting to recover from a disaster such as none had seen before were forced to start again from scratch. What is it that we said before? Only a tropical storm. A little rain, some wind, and a great deal of fear… This might fit with some of us, but not with the realities of the camps in which a little is really too much.