Volume 79, Number 33 | January 20 - 26, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photos by Tequila Minsky

Survivors walked past a collapsed school building shortly after the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

Soho photog was in Haiti for quake; Slams looting hype

Tequila Minsky, a Soho resident and freelance photographer for The Villager, was in Haiti last week and captured some of the first images of the tragic earthquake’s aftermath. Minsky, a lover of Haitian culture, frequently visits the Caribbean nation, and happened to be there on Jan. 12, in her hotel room in Port-au-Prince, when the quake hit. Despite communication limits, she was able to e-mail us this report this week.

By Tequila Minsky

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 18 — Much of the city is sleeping outside at night, and those in damaged homes have moved into the streets and courtyards, sidewalks, parking lots and public parks.

I have seen a few water trucks distributing water but water distribution is not on a grand scale. Many, many bodies are still buried in buildings. The earthquake happened just before 5 and many, many trade-school students were in class. Many students were killed… . The smell of decomposition coming from buildings.

Eighty N.Y.C. first responders (all 9/11 vets — police and fire) rescued some people from a collapsed market yesterday. They go out in teams of 30 and alternate day and night. Four dogs — two per team.

An injured woman being assisted after the quake.
Communication is the problem here with no electricity. Also people who were rumored to have been killed — 3 different feminist leaders, were NOT at work when their buildings collapsed.

The Israelis set up this amazing field hospital, but the N.Y.C. public responders weren’t aware of it when they rescued a man and brought him to an AIDS clinic. (The locals told him that was the nearest hospital.)  

I’m safe, yes. Inflation of food and drink at the hotel (but we do have food, unlike aid, which seems not to be getting out).

Haitians organize themselves, and so far are helping each other...although major media might write about looting, and the killing of looters.

Haitians have been unbelievably resilient. N.Y.C. police and fire are having their eyes opened about the bad press Haiti gets.  

Many doctors want to volunteer, including my nephew, but the infrastructure is not in place to absorb them.

* * *

Jan. 19 — There is still the smell of decomposition from some buildings. People are leaving the city in droves, going to provinces, by bus, truck, some with what’s left of household items — many by boat to Jérémie. (Boats are very dangerous.)

There are refugee camps inside the city — still 200 here, 200 there, some with Coleman pop-up tents amidst makeshift shelters of sheets or bedspreads to protect from sun (not much good if it rains). The people in the tent cities have not heard anything from the government.

Haitians have organized themselves in the most incredible way given the absence of any leadership.

There is talk of a donor conference that just took place or is taking place in the Dominican Republic — planning the relocation of the city.

That’s because the infrastructure is so broken down, and now no institutions exist, no schools, more than half of the government buildings, housing stock have been decimated.

Now is the chance to really think about decentralization (my thinking) and building the institutions in the other cities to keep and attract talent there.

Something like 13,000 troops are expected to arrive here. This is like a bull in a china shop! The city has emptied. Might need some security but THIS IS NOT IRAQ!

I went to a funeral today, said to be the first at the cemetery. It was sad. It was a symbol for the country.

* * *

The day after the earthquake, Minsky had e-mailed The Villager her initial impressions:

This is Katrina meets 9/11. There is a lack of leadership, no visible Haitian government or police presence or U.N. in the town center. Plenty of bodies on the street and people are buried in buildings and still alive, and there is no institutional assistance. The only ones helping are community — young men with crowbars.

Minsky was quoted in a Jan. 13 New York Times article, saying a passerby had been killed by a collapsing wall of the Hotel Oloffson.

Her photos of Haiti’s earthquake have been used by The New York Times, New York Daily News and other major media.

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