While living underneath a tarpaulin near her home in Camp-Perrin, Judith Saint-Germain can’t help but to feel agitated every time she hears a sudden noise. She worries that the noises are from pieces of her home falling on family members tearing down their earthquake-damaged home to rebuild it. On Sunday, a rock fell on her brother-in-law’s forehead, sending him to the hospital for stitches.
“I’m scared, where they are is really dangerous,” Saint-Germain, 38, said. “But we can’t spend the rest of our lives outside. We have to get a home.”
“If we wait for authorities, with the amount of homes that collapsed in Camp-Perrin, we could be waiting for over two, three years,” Saint-Germain, a middle school teacher, added.
At least 52,953 structures collapsed and 77,006 were damaged in Haiti’s southwest, where the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Aug. 14. Haiti’s Civil Protection, the disaster response agency, said in an Aug. 21 statement that evaluations would start “in the coming days” and it warned people not to rebuild structures.
“The National Emergency Operations Center has urged everyone not to rush to repair the August 14 earthquake-damaged homes,” the statement reads. “Because this work is endangering the lives of those on the construction sites, with the continuing shock.”
Numerous aftershocks continued to shake towns throughout Haiti, including Camp-Perrin, but residents like Saint-Germain have been trying to rebuild what remains of their homes. Many residents whose houses appeared only slightly damaged to them have already repaired the homes using cement. Some business owners have also built walls around their damaged structures to secure what inventory is left.
Most of the demolition and construction taking place is not authorized by the Ministry of Public Works Transport and Communications, or TPTC, residents said. Saint-Germain and other residents said they have yet to see any authorities, so they are proceeding on their own. TPTC was not available for interviews, a government spokesperson told The Haitian Times.
Saint-Germain’s husband, Fanuel Saint-Germain, a mason, first built the two-story home himself using concrete and other workers about seven years ago. They did not follow paraseismic rules, the couple admits.
The couple’s three children, aging from five to 17, were the only ones home during the earthquake. Their five-year-old daughter, Fanaelle, is recovering from bruising after jumping off a staircase as it was crumbling down during the earthquake.
So this time around, Fanuel Saint-Germain said, he will follow paraseismic rules — though he did not know where to find a rebuilding guide as of Wednesday.
“God will lead me to a guide,” Fanuel Saint-Germain, 43, said. “I can’t build it the same way I did before.”
Lolo Wenel, a civil engineer based in Jacmel, said two key components of structures in an earthquake-prone area are building on rocky soil and connecting all pillars at the bottom with iron, which requires more money.
After the 2010 earthquake, the government held conferences on paraseismic measures but many residents ignored the rules because they didn’t have enough money, Wenel said.
“If people were going to follow the paraseismic system, [they] would never have homes,” said Wenel, 63. “But how are you going to ask poor people who can’t even eat to follow it? The government doesn’t have the means to help.”
As of Wednesday, Fanuel Saint-Germain wasn’t sure how he and his family were going to raise the money to rebuild their home.
“I have to figure out a way to leave from these tarpaulins I’m under,” he said. “When it rains we have to run and go somewhere else and stand and watch.”