President of Haiti, Rene Preval, said Sunday that the death toll in his country following the earthquake it suffered on January 12 could reach 300,000. Meanwhile the Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has praised the efforts of the U.S. military.
President Preval spoke of the death toll in Haiti possibly reaching 300,000 while he meeting heads of governments within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) - an organization with 15 member states and 5 associate members - in Playa Del Carmen in Mexico.
During the first of two summits which the Caribbean Daily News reported would both feature the disaster that has befallen Haiti high on the agenda President Preval is quoted by Reuters as saying:You have seen the images you are familiar with the pictures. More than 200,000 bodies were collected on the streets without counting those that are still under the rubble. We might reach 300,000 people
Reuters adds that the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January destroyed 250,000 homes and left 1.5 million people living in "tent camps". Furthermore, the cost of reconstructing Haiti could be as high as $14 billion, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.
The inadequacy of the shelter provided in the "tent camps" with the rainy season in Haiti approaching - the first heavy rains arrived last Wednesday. The storms are of particular concern to the President, who explained:The first rainy days that have started falling in Port-au-Prince have made it impossible to enjoy a dignified life and this is the reason for the request for shelters
Noting that it may be better if his country does not concentrate reconstruction around the capital Port-au-Prince his message for potential international donors, including those he will meet while in Mexico, was:We will not try to reconstruct but rather to refound the country, where we don't concentrate ourselves in one capital
One country that has played a leading role in the aid operation that followed the earthquake is the U.S.
The presence of what the New York Daily News says was 22,000 American troops at one point in the operation has led to speculation as to why the U.S. has been so eager to play a leading role.
French rescuers pull a man from rubble in Haiti
Digital Journal reported at the weekend that some economists and scientists believe that beneath and around the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, Hispaniola, are vast reserves of gas and oil.
However an ulterior motive for the large U.S. aid operation is not it appears on the mind of Jean-Max Bellerive, the Prime Minister of Haiti.
In an interview with the New York Daily News the Prime Minister has indicated that the U.S. military presence is/was welcomed by the people of Haiti because, in his words:They were prepared to do whatever was necessary to be sure Haiti wasn't going to explode
Services such as electricity and the phones were being restored faster than he had anticipated and "Haiti is basically a secure country" where "you don't feel anger on the streets", despite the terrible suffering of the Haitian population. Mr Bellerive confirmed that no request has been made to the Obama administration for the U.S. military to remain in large numbers in the Caribbean country over the long term.
Acknowledging that his own government was being criticized by its citizens for its response to the earthquake, Mr Bellerive said that one man who has placed a sign on a fence at a squatters camp close to his office, which reads "Prime Minister's office, we need help. We are dying", had done so "because he's a Haitian, he's not going to condemn God - he's going to condemn the government".
The Prime Minister claimed that the camp where the sign could be seen is receiving the daily supplies it needs.