Rains add to Haitian misery

Police stand guard while workers move tents and protesters demand aid at a warehouse in Port-au-Prince  on Thursday. Officials are pushing people to leave refugee camps and move back to demolished areas.

Associated Press

Police stand guard while workers move tents and protesters demand aid at a warehouse in Port-au-Prince on Thursday. Officials are pushing people to leave refugee camps and move back to demolished areas.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The first heavy rain since the earthquake doused Haiti's capital Thursday night, soaking hundreds of thousands of homeless in a city where barren hillsides and weakened buildings are threatening to give way.

The storm hit as relief officials changed tack on dealing with quake survivors, delaying plans to build big refugee camps outside the capital. Instead, they want the homeless to pack up their tents and tarps and return to destroyed neighborhoods.

People dashed for shelter down streets streaming with runoff from the driving tropical rain. The downpour swept trash along roadside gutters, clogging drains and turning depressions into ponds.

Some women stripped naked and took advantage of the downpour to take a shower — there are no bathing facilities in overcrowded tent camps that officials want to decongest.

With the official rainy season still a month away, forecasters warned that the storm, the first since the Jan. 12 quake, could bring floods and mudslides to a population in a perilous state. Many dwellings are severely damaged or clinging to the sides of hillsides.

Those who lined up at a downtown site Thursday morning to register for the new campaign to resettle more than 1.2 million people expressed skepticism and were dismissive of the plan, and relief officials acknowledged its immense challenges.

"There will be flooding. There will be discomfort, misery. And that's not avoidable," a top U.N. official for Haiti, Anthony Banbury, told a New York news conference this week.

Gerald-Emile Brun, an architect with the government's reconstruction committee, suggested that Haitians, who expect little of their corrupt and inefficient government, may largely be left to sort it out themselves.

Jailed missionaries ordered held longer

Haitian Judge Bernard Saint-Vil said American missionaries Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter will remain in jail over the weekend, as he awaits more testimony. Saint-Vil said he asked two real estate agents and a pastor from the Dominican Republic to testify in Port-au-Prince about property the missionaries rented to set up an orphanage. That is expected Monday. Silsby and Coulter were among 10 Americans detained in Haiti while trying to take 33 kids to the Dominican Republic after the Jan. 12 earthquake. The others have been released and returned home.

Rains add to Haitian misery 02/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 9:55pm]

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