It’s been five years since the ground shook violently in and around the overcrowded capital of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, raising a cloud of dust over the smashed city and outlying towns. The devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck at 4:53 p.m. Jan. 12, 2010, killing some 316,000 people, according to Haiti’s estimates. Some 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless and the country’s government was obliterated.
Desolate streets were filled with rubble and the piercing sounds of anguish. Today, some hard-hit sites in Port-au-Prince have changed dramatically and most lots are cleared of rubble. The historic Iron Market in downtown Port-au-Prince, leveled by the 2010 quake, has been replaced by a colorful new landmark with decorative minarets and a clock tower.
The pancaked National Palace, its collapsed domed roof a powerful image of a government in ruins, has since been demolished and its wreckage cleared from the grounds. Some of the broken white walls of the once-towering National Cathedral still stand. The site has attracted a few destitute Haitians, still living in tarp shelters. A trash-strewn market area in downtown Port-au-Prince still looks ramshackle five years later, though splintered power lines have since been carted away. Some places have seen more progress than others but one thing is clear: Haiti still has a far ways to go before it can say it has finally “built back better,” the goal repeatedly stated by reconstruction officials.
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