Friday, January 15, 2010

News from Port au Prince entry from SD

Ciné Institute director David Belle flew from New York to Puerto Rico and then to
Santo Domingo, then drove across Dominican Republic border to Hotel Oloffson in
downtown PAP (Port au Prince). It is a drive that normally takes an hour and a half,
but this time it took five hours.
"Traffic totally snarled at the city entrance with people heading out to provinces.
Dominican presidential convoys racing back across to border after food drops. Military
helicopters and cargo planes shuttling back and forth from border overhead. No substantial
damages in Guanthier and Croix des Bouquets or Carrefou Marasa -- walls and some
small homes down but most larger construction standing. Airport surprisingly emptier
than I expected with only 100 or so people attempting to get inside.  Control tower
is standing. Another group of 20 or so sleeping on curb with baggage who had apparently
been turned away from an evacuation flight. Major destruction is first visible on
the airport road heading to Delmas. Large buildings pancaked. Public squares at
Delmas are makeshift refugee camps.
Moving into the city, route Nazon -- which winds across central PAP -- the destruction
gets worse and worse and the street is lined with piles of swollen, rotting bodies.
Residents place bodies on this central road with hope that they'll be picked up
and disposed of in mass graves being dug in routes Freres and Titayen.
Periodic roadblocks have been set up by residents, protesting the lack of any aid
presence and angry at stench and indecency. Huge state-owned caterpillar tractors
and dump trucks were just beginning to arrive and load bodies as we passed through.
In the worst parts -- every 50 feet or so -- there were groups of 10 to 15 bodies
lined side by side or stacked together. In between these stacks and groupings is
a continual line of singles and doubles -- one body after another. The odor is
overwhelming. No one sleeps indoors and so roads are also partially blocked with
families who have moved their beds to the street. Everyone is singing and praying
in groups. Almost every one of the main hotels are damaged or destroyed.  Hotel
Montana is flattened. One of the owners and many guests buried inside. Oloffson
Hotel has no more available rooms. Slept on mattresses in parking lot with Richard
Morse (owner of Oloffson) and family. Two light tremors hit at 5 AM.
"I have very little news of friends in PAP. I know that Magalie Marcelin, the assistant
director of my film Madame Ti Zo  -- is dead. Flo from Fosaj -- the art school in
Jacmel -- also dead. No electricity -- laptop battery almost dead. Will write as
I can."
David Belle, January 14th, 2010
Go to Ciné Institute's website for latest photos and footage coming from the students
in Jacmel. []

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