PORT-AU-PRINCE, Mar 9, 2010 (IPS) – Perched near the top of a steep hill, the fractured pink walls of Villa Manrese overlook the rest of the capital city. Both ends of the three-story compound have collapsed, spilling into mounds of rubble. The first floor was pulverised into a layer of dust. There are still bodies inside.
But in the adjacent garden behind the Catholic retreat, also known as Centre Saint-Viateur, life sprang anew after the Jan. 12 earthquake struck Haiti.
Some 250 families, comprising 1,500 people from the surrounding area of Haut-Turgeau, crowded together in the small field. Father Paul André Garraud, a Haitian priest based in the villa, helped procure tents, food, and medicine from relief agencies.
“We were doing well because they organised us. We weren’t hungry,” said Lubin Pierre-Louis, 52, leaning on a cane in the middle of the empty field. Three boys play soccer with a dirty plastic bottle on the wet ground behind him.
The camp vanished overnight on Mar. 2.
“It’s wrong. They told us to leave in the middle of the night,” Pierre-Louis said. “Just staying here now is a resistance. If they ask me to leave, I’ll be forced out.”
Residents who formed the informal committee running the tent camp swept through at 11 p.m., according to witnesses, telling everyone they had to leave immediately.
Families were told that bulldozers would come onto the field early in the morning to demolish Villa Manrese. No demolition crew arrived and the villa is still standing.
“They told us the bulldozer was coming to intimidate us,” said Johnny Cherezard, a 23-year-old student. “The government said nobody has a right to push people out unless they have a place to go. We had people who were sick and injured.”
“The Father gave the signal to the committee to force people out,” he said. By 3 a.m., most people had left the camp. Continue reading