21 January 2010

Reports of landslides in the rural earthquake-affected areas of Haiti

Posted by Dave Petley

As the Haiti disaster moves from the rescue phase into stabilisation and the initial component of recovery, the media are running out of miracle survival stories and tales of looting. This means that they are now looking for other stories to tell, and in particular are starting to focus on both the plight of communities outside of Port-au-Prince and on detailed eye-witness accounts. Interestingly, this is starting to suggest that although the number of landslides is smaller than we might have expected, in the upland areas they have caused some problems. So for example, Sphere reports about the road to Jacmel, based upon the account of David Belle from the Cine Institute in Jacmel:

“Belle was finally able to drive from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel on Tuesday morning. “The drive over was very alarming. The town of Leogane is very badly hit; the small mountain communities are badly hit from landslides, homes taken out by dirt,” he said. The film school plans on expanding its reporting to neighboring towns soon, to make sure they also get the help they need.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports about the upland areas close to the epicentre:

“Two hours drive west of Port-au-Prince, in the banana-growing hills where the epicenter of Haiti’s earthquake tore chunks out of hillsides, hurled boulders and cracked roads, survivors with festering wounds sleep by their wrecked homes, unseen by aid workers.

By Tuesday, foreign medics were finally at work at a field hospital at the dirt-poor farming town of Leogane, by the quake epicenter. But nobody in the rock fall-plagued hilltop hamlets seems to know they are there, and the medics do not have the personnel to send teams out to look for patients.

Here at the core of the violent 7.0 magnitude quake, lush green hills have been ruptured and split. Locals have sawn through trees sticking out of fallen earth on the roads and they point to where truck drivers at a sand quarry were crushed when a giant chunk of it collapsed, redrawing the landscape. “I was inside bathing when it started shaking. I ran out and I saw that where there had been a hill there was empty space,” said Seraphin Sonel, 14, who lives by the destroyed quarry.

Finally, AP has this image of the aftermath of rockfalls on the road to Jacnel:

Meanwhile, images are also starting to appear of the damage to shanty towns, such as this one, also from AP:

It is clear from this image that, unsurprisingly, some of the damage in these poor areas has been caused by shallow slips under the houses. This does not bode well for the rainy season.