Fri | Sep 30, 2022

Water worries

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Ape):

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are in desperate need of drinking water because of an earthquake-damaged municipal pipeline and truck drivers either unable or unwilling to deliver their cargo.

"Many drivers are afraid of being attacked if they go out, some drivers are still missing in the disaster and others are out there searching for missing relatives," said Dudu Jean, a 30-year-old driver who was attacked Friday when he drove into the capital's sprawling Cite Soleil slum.

The lack of water has become one of the greatest dangers facing Haitians, in part because earthquake survivors stay outdoors all day in the heat out of fear of aftershocks and unstable buildings. While aid has started to pour in from around the world, supplies are not quickly reaching all who need them.

municipal system

Even before Tuesday's quake, the municipal system in this city of three million people was unreliable. Haiti's poorest live in shacks with no plumbing and carry their water home in jugs from public wells. Most people depend on water delivered by truckers, who get their water with the help of diesel pumps that draw from a huge underground natural reservoir.

"There's no shortage of water, the water's here, the trucks are here as you see," said Jean, who said his attackers let him go unharmed after they recognised him.

Since the quake, at least one water treatment plant was shuttered because of a lack of electricity. Pipes for the municipal water system are believed damaged. No water is running in Cite Soleil, home to more than a million people.

Adding to the problem is that stores that have water and food to sell are not opening out of fear of violence.

Tom Osbeck, a missionary from Indiana, whose Protestant-run Jesus in Haiti Ministry operates a school just north of Port-aug-Prince, said a scarcity of drinking water and food is fraying the nerves of increasingly despairing survivors.

"Even distributing food or water is very dangerous. People are desperate and will fight to death for a cup of water," Osbeck said Friday from his home, about five miles (8 kilometres) from the centre of the quake.