Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Haiti has been hurt – [Updating]

I can’t put this in to words.

Hispaniola has been rocked by a 7.0 earthquake.

I felt the effects here in D.R. .

Friends in Haiti (facebook because phones are down) are saying it’s very very bad.

I copied one of the messages but withheld the name for privacy reasons.

You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

there was this crazy earth quake here hospital and hotel are to ground zero. people are screaming covered in white dust. death screams in the streets haiti has been hurt.

I hope the editors add more to this story and use this as an openthread on this catastrophe.

I already volunteered to go.

I’m not sure if I’ll be posting updates or not so I don’t know where this dairy might be headed.

Pray for Haiti.


JONATHAN M. KATZ – 1:40pm ET Jan. 13, 2009 Officials fear more than 100K dead in quake

President Rene Preval said he believes thousands were killed in Tuesday afternoon’s magnitude-7.0 quake, and the scope of the destruction prompted other officials to give even higher estimates. Leading Sen. Youri Latortue told The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead, although he acknowledged that nobody really knows.

Haiti earthquake: dozens feared dead as buildings collapse

Recent earthquakes near Haiti

Time   Magnitude   Location  

2 hours ago   5.5   Haiti region   Map

2 hours ago   5.9   Haiti region   Map

2 hours ago   7.0   Haiti region   Map

Obama says thoughts are with Haiti, offers aid

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said his thoughts and prayers were with the people of Haiti, where a strong earthquake hit on Tuesday, and that the U.S. stood ready to help the island nation.

White House officials said Obama also had asked aides to make sure U.S. personnel at the embassy in Port-au-Prince were safe. There are fewer than 20 U.S. military personnel in Haiti, largely working with the embassy there.

Officials also said Obama told them to start preparing in case humanitarian assistance was needed.

The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Southern Command have started to coordinate.

Former President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, said his office and the rest of the U.N. system were monitoring the situation. He pledged relief, rebuilding and recovery assistance to Haiti.

Immediately after the first quake – that is the dust of Port-au-Prince.


USGC Audio Interview


  1. Shaun Appleby

    From the New York Times:

    A powerful earthquake of 7.0 magnitude rocked Haiti just before 5 p.m. Eastern time, 10 miles southwest from the highly populated capital of Port-au-Prince, according to the United States Geological Survey, causing widespread damage and panic with the potential for a high number of casualties in the impoverished Caribbean country.

    Skip to next paragraph

    The New York Times

    There were two aftershocks – of 5.5 and 5.9 magnitude – that followed in the last hour, and more were expected, according to David Wald, a seismologist with the survey.

    “The main issue here will probably be shaking,” Mr. Wald said, “and this is an area that is particularly vulnerable in terms of construction practice, and with a highly population density. There could be a high number of casualties.”

    Liz Robbins – Powerful Earthquake Rocks Haiti NYT 12 Jan 10

    Thoughts and prayers for victims and survivors.

  2. spacemanspiff

    I’m guessing that in a month things will really get bad. Sickness and lack of clean water. Tension in the region will rise. 2 very different countries on 1 island. How Obama handles this will say a lot about his leadership on the INTERNATIONAL stage.

    It’s sad that this had to happen for people to finally take fucking notice at was in happening a couple of hours away from Florida.

    (bold mine)

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital where people screamed for help and damaging other buildings. An aid official described “total disaster and chaos.”

    Communications were widely disrupted, making it impossible to get a clear picture of damage as powerful aftershocks shook a desperately poor country where many buildings are flimsy. Electricity was out in some places.

    Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in the capital of Port-au-Prince, told U.S. colleagues before phone service failed that “there must be thousands of people dead,” according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Sara Fajardo.

    “He reported that it was just total disaster and chaos, that there were clouds of dust surrounding Port-au-Prince,” Fajardo said from the group’s offices in Maryland.

  3. Water mains and sewers will be broken and will take a long time to repair.

    I’m not really trying to turn this into a political discussion, but I feel compelled to make this point. I’ve always felt the failure of state of Haiti reflects poorly on the U.S. The Monroe doctrine was in effect for a long time and in that time Haiti became and remains a barely functional state.  God knows, we’ve tried enough things. Unfortunately, we’ve never managed to get it right. We’ve often made matters worse.

  4. spacemanspiff

    Patrick Charles, former Professor of the University of Havana, predicted in 2008 that there would be a massive earthquake in Port-au-Prince in the near future. Today, there was a Force 7.0 Richter, with an epicentre 14 miles from the capital city of Haiti. There are reports of massive damage, including a collapsed hospital.


    His predictions were based upon the fact that Port-au-Prince sits on a large fault line, part of the Enriquillo Fault Zone, which begins in Petionville and ends at Tiburon, which was razed twice by earthquakes in 1751 and 1771. He predicted that the minor tremors felt in Petionville, Delmas, Croix des Bouquets, and La Plaine in 2008 were a sign of something larger to come.

    Professor Charles predicted that an earthquake of 7.2 or more would take place in or near Haiti’s capital with catastrophic consequences.


  5. Former President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, said his office and the rest of the U.N. system were monitoring the situation. He pledged relief, rebuilding and recovery assistance to Haiti.

    Glad it’s not Brownie.

  6. DTOzone

    I mean geez, leave this poor country alone, let it breathe.

    My neighbor’s parents are in Haiti and he can’t get in touch with them. They’re in a fairly posh area near Port-au-Prince. He can’t get in touch with him. I can tell you how nervous I am. I hope they’re ok. He doesn’t deserve this, they don’t deserve this.

    I mean seriously God, LEAVE THESE POOR PEOPLE ALONE!!!

  7. Charles Lemos

    Clearly the next 48-72 hours are critical in reaching survivors and helping Haitians get back on their feet. The first thing is to clear the rubble, find trapped victims, get food, water & blankets and tents in place and provide medical attention. I’m sure Cuba will step in. They have great doctors and Cuba provided amazing relief when the Kashmiri earthquake hit a few years ago. The US, France and the Latin Americans will also respond.

    There’s never a good time for a natural disaster obviously and natural disasters hit Haiti very very hard. Had this happened next door in the Dominican Republic, the damage wouldn’t have been as catastrophic though granted a 7.0 is a 7.0. This is a major seismic event of historic proportions.

    Still, I hope world attention on Haiti will bring a renewed focus on a failed and abandoned state. Haiti is rather unique among failed states in that it has not caused wider repercussions to its neighbors. The US and the DR have felt some blowback in terms of Haitian immigration but that’s pretty much it.

    The thing is that Haiti is a solvable problem (unlike Afghanistan or Yemen). Not to minimize the problems that confront Haiti. Seventy-six of its population lives below the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty (the $2 dollar a day or less). There is of course a deep societal cleavage in Haiti with a few families controlling the vast majority of wealth.  The GINI is .65 which is one of the worst in the world.  But here’s the thing in 1988, only 65% of the population lived below the poverty line. So Haiti is going backwards and it’s a country that can’t afford to go backwards.

    Haiti is not just a failed state but it is a collapsing society. And that’s really more the issue. I’m hard pressed to think of a country that confronts as great an ecological challenge as Haiti perhaps parts of Kazakhstan, Russia, China  are worse but that parts. The whole of Haiti is an ecological disaster. Maybe North Korea is worse or as bad but we don’t have the clarity (at least I don’t) that we have with Haiti. One can see Haiti’s problem from the air.

    The border between the Dominican Republic (the DR) and Haiti is visible from the air. It’s the only world border that is so visible that is not a river or mountain range. That’s because the DR is forested and Haiti is not. The DR is green and Haiti a mauve brown. No country on Earth has been as rapidly deforested as Haiti has been over the past 80 years. Sixty percent of the country was forested in the late 1920s. Today only 1.5% of Haiti is forested. So when all those hurricanes passed over Hispaniola, the DR was scarcely touched and Haiti was ravaged.

    So why is Haiti so deforested? Well ultimately it does come down to governance. The DR had somewhat enlightened if despotic rulers (Joaquín Balaguer had a fondness for parks and he managed to save the DR’s watershed) while Haiti suffered the Duvaliers and perhaps worse a series of inept corrupt kleptocratic governments. But that’s just the overlay.

    Here’s the nut of the problem. There is no infrastructure in Haiti. The electrical grid serves perhaps a quarter of the population. Haitians have no fuel with which to cook their meals and thus took cutting their forests to make charcoal.

    Now take immigration. We have also seen the Haitian boat people. But most Haitians who leave Haiti either cross into the DR by foot or fly to Miami. 63% of the Haitians who leave Haiti actually have high school degrees. What that tells you is that the base for an incipient middle class is voting with the feet as they say but if we can get them to stay they might then pressure Haiti into transforming itself. So Haiti has become poorer because those with skills can flee and not necessarily on a raft.

    Getting Haitians to stay really at this point requires the international community getting involved to a degree that hasn’t really been attempted. Basically the country has to be put into a receivership. That of course isn’t something we have done before.

    When I look at Haiti (and I’ve been twice) I see another Easter Island without the Moai. The reason I find Haiti so damn interesting is that well as a historian I am witnessing a societal collapse which is rare. Not that societies don’t collapse but in the course of a human lifetime we are seeing one play out. Governance is of course a factor but that’s too easy an explanation.

    So what makes Haiti different? Well it is an African society transplanted to the New World and the only slave society to successfully revolt and overthrow the established order but that was in the 1790s and I don’t think Haiti’s problem are ethnically based. Barbados is one of the most successful countries anywhere. So being a former slave society is not indicative of future prospects. Granted the sugar plantations in French Haiti were much more brutal than those in British Jamaica. But Haiti threw off its European overlord in a very brutal 13 year revolt. It was the most violent of the New World revolution and the only one to have an explicit racial character. Of the half million African slaves on the sugar plantations, perhaps 100,000 died. So Haiti was born in blood.

    But independence probably did have a cost in Haiti. It perhaps came too early (1804) though really the problem is that power went from a French elite (the French plantation owners were mostly massacred) to control by an army – the first Haitian President Dessalines declared himself emperor – that in the first years was led by dark-skinned blacks though in time lighter-skinned (see Harry Reid isn’t alone) blacks increasingly took charge. Almost immediately after independence, Haiti was split between a dark-skinned north and a mulatto south. And in no other country except perhaps Venezuela (another slave society) did the military play as large a role in governing. The constitution existed on paper.

    The racism in the 19th century left Haiti isolated. The US didn’t recognize Haiti until 1862. France recognized Haitian independence in 1838 but on the condition that (and get ready for this) Haiti paid reparations to French property owners. I forget the amount off the top of my head but they were onerous and succeeded in bankrupting the Haitian state. Therein lies another of Haiti’s longstanding problems, a bankrupt state. The other was, of course, a deep political instability. Of the 22 heads of state between 1843 and 1915, only one served out his prescribed term of office. Three were killed in palace revolts, really a rarity in Latin America. Coups elsewhere were the bloodless kind. In 1915, President Wilson invaded the country and the US would effectively rule the country until 1934.

    But ethnically within Haiti there were changes. The mulatto class took economic power running the country as if it were an estate. The political power came once the US left. The Duvaliers, pere et fils, ruled the country with US backing from 1957 until 1986. Internal rule was enforced through use of militias, again a Latin American rarity. So the country does remind one more of Africa than Latin America.

    The other really curious thing about Haiti is its overpopulation. It is the second most densely populated country in the Americas after El Salvador. Here African traditions do play a role. The average Haitian woman has some 5 children but there’s a catch. They will have fewer children if they have a male first. Have a girl and it’s try try try again until you have a boy.

    The country does have potential but it needs to be rescued from itself. The question is how? We no longer live in a colonial world and the US really only intervenes now if there is a threat to US interests and Haiti doesn’t really fit that bill though the country is infected by the corruption of the drug trade. Part of the reason that the US wasn’t sorry to see Aristide go in 2004 was that the US knew he allowed Haiti to be a transshipment point. Then again the clique that ousted Aristide were also financed by drug money.

    But a Haiti that remains a shell of a state is one that falls prey to being a vehicle for drug trade. I’m a legalization is the least worst option kind of guy but failing that I think it important not to allow countries to be controlled by drug cartels.  

    My big push on Haiti has been on reforestation. If I could fix one thing in Haiti it is that I would move to reforest the country. I’d look at what Cuba did in Piñar del Rio and see if we can learn from that experience. Of course, it would be great to have the Cubans involved but that’s not going to happen unfortunately. Reforestation restores the watershed, would provide hydroelectric power.

    Any way, these are just some off the cuff thoughts.

  8. Charles Lemos

    at the UK Guardian website.

    The death toll has to be in the thousands. Very sad.

    The fault is a strike-slip fault. Just like the San Andreas fault here in California. These produce shallow but powerful quakes as the plates give away. The pressure builds and builds and then boom they unleashed a torrent of energy.

  9. MSNBC: All Hospitals In Port-Au-Prince Have Been Abandoned Or Destroyed

    2 hours ago

    MSNBC, citing information from Doctors Without Borders, just reported that all hospitals in the Haitian capital have either been abandoned or destroyed.

  10. Charles Lemos

    Pat Robertson:

    In an extraordinary statement during a broadcast on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network on Wednesday, the American televangelist claimed that the reason for Haiti’s misfortunes was that the nation “swore a pact to the devil” two centuries ago.

    I don’t use expletives but several come to mind.

  11. HappyinVT

    The first USCG cutter has arrived…

    Three more Coast Guard ships were on their way to the island, as well as other Defense Department vessels including the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, The New York Times reported.


    Officials said Navy ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member Marine unit were either on the way to the impoverished nation or likely to begin moving soon.


    The initial contingent of 2,000 Marines could be deployed to the quake-ravaged country within the next few days to either help with emergency aid distribution or enforce law in order in conjunction with U.N. peacekeepers already there, Fraser said.

    The general said that a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, is also heading from Norfolk, Va., to the area and should arrive Thursday afternoon after a stop off Naval Station Mayport in Florida to pick up helicopters, crews and supplies.

    The USS Bataan, carrying Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall were ordered to get under way as soon as possible, and more vessels were ordered to stand ready to assist.

    The USS Higgins from Naval Station San Diego was scheduled to arrive off the coast of Haiti on Thursday to provide logistical services for Coast Guard helicopters.


    Officials said two C-130 aircraft were departing Wednesday for Haiti with the team of military engineers, operational planners, communications specialists and a command and control group. The Air Force is sending people to provide air traffic control and operations at the Port-au-Prince airport.

    …and SoS Clinton has cancelled her trip to Australia and New Zealand to help coordinate our efforts.

  12. Apparently, the slavering buttknob has taken to condemning Obama from responding quickly to the disaster in Haiti (unlike President Bush’s response to the disaster in New Orleans).  In the same fetid breath, this sad sack of shit compares the President’s quick response to the three days he took to respond to the Crotch Bomber (again unlike President Bush – who took a week to respond to the Shoe Bomber).

    The reason, according to this pathetic fucking loser?

    Haiti has black people in it.  

  13. HappyinVT

    Like at a lot of publications, Newsweek was forced to start its week over when the earthquake hit Haiti.

    Give the magazine credit for an artful recovery. The Washington Post Co.-owned publication has tapped President Barack Obama to pen a cover story on Haiti for the Jan. 25 issue hitting newsstands on Monday.


  14. Cheryl Kopec

    My dad asked me last night if I knew why there was so little damage in D.R. with a quake of that magnitude. Of course, I didn’t. Do you have any insight on this, spiff?

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