Haiti reconstruction continues

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • August 19, 2013 10:41 AM EDT

40,000 homes are still considered dangerous

Three years ago the devastating earthquake left Haiti in despair. Too many people died and the country's government and activities were paralyzed.

The National Palace was practically destroyed and many other government buildings were seriously damaged. People's homes were ruined, and the ones that did survive the earthquake are still very dangerous to live in. What has been done in the construction field? What is still left to be done?

Dr. Kit Miyamoto and his company Miyamoto International, a global earthquake and structural engineering firm, were invited by PADF and the World Bank to come to Haiti a week after the earthquake to assess about 50 government buildings. Later, they also became involved in assessing and repairing private homes and office buildings.

"My personal impression was that all those buildings were never built with any earthquake conservation and they were very dangerous, but at the same time they were very easy to strengthen," says Dr. Miyamoto.

During the earthquake The National Palace, a symbolic historical building built in 1920, was severely damaged. The upper floor and the front wing had collapsed. The investigation by Miyamoto International has revealed that the building can in fact be salvaged; however, there are no funds available for its reconstruction right now.

The Citadelle Laferrière, one of the most important monuments of Haitian history, has also weakened over the years. Recently, the Haitian Government has contracted Miyamoto International to assess the state of this historic fort. Many cracks were found, which were mainly caused by the 1842 earthquake. Unfortunately, there are no funds yet to repair the existing cracks and to strengthen this monument that in 1982 was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Sans-Souci Palace.

The Sacré-Cœur Church in Port-au-Prince, a true monument that was destroyed during the 2010 earthquake, is about to be rebuild. Last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) awarded a 1.85 million dollar grant to "Catholic Proximity to Haiti and its Church" ("Proche", known as the "UOC" ) for the Reconstruction of the Sacré-Cœur Church. They plan to finish it in 2014.

40,000 homes are still dangerous

It wasn't just the monuments and government buildings that were affected by the earthquake. Thousands of homes across Port-au-Prince were destroyed or seriously affected leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless. According to Dr. Miyamoto, based on his calculations, an overwhelming 10 million cubic meters of debris needed to be removed from the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Following the earthquake, the Haiti Ministry of Public Works, Transport, and Communications (MTPTC) conducted an earthquake damage assessment program on an unprecedented 400,000 buildings. Miyamoto International was contracted to train as many as 600 Haitian engineers and 6,000 Haitian masons. As a result 400,000 structures were assessed, and 12,000 buildings were strengthened by about 20 small Haitian contractors.

"With funding from the USAID, IDB and other donors, hundreds of masons were trained and they helped repair and strengthen thousands of homes. However, many of the homes are still a danger for their inhabitants," says Dr. Miyamoto.
"I want to remind you that about 40,000 red-tag, heavily damaged structures--mainly apartments, are still extremely dangerous. Again, they can be repaired."

Schools and hospitals

The Government, in collaboration with Unicef, is now working on the reconstruction of schools and hospitals throughout the country. Miyamoto International is involved in the reconstruction of 34 schools all other the country.
"I think the Haitian government is doing the right thing. They are focusing on schools," says Dr. Miyamoto.

Working with Haitian contractors was "the best thing we've done"

Miyamoto International has established a permanent office in Haiti. They currently have 20 employees and most of them are Haitian. They also embraced as their corporate culture to contract Haitian companies to take on some of the work.

"Whatever we do there (in Haiti) we always work with Haitian contractors, no matter what, there are no exceptions."

"We hire engineers from Haiti or from the Diaspora. What makes Haitian engineers different from others is that they are committed to Haiti. They don't come for a few months and leave. They want to be there. They want to make their country better," says Dr. Miyamoto, who spends a lot of time in Haiti.

"There are many small investments in Haiti. It's a beginning, and I do think that the Diaspora is the answer for Haiti. It's not the World Bank. It's not USAID. I believe that the Haitian Diaspora community, their education, their experience, their investments capacity is what Haiti needs. Haiti needs investment."