Work to remove earthquake debris under way

Oct. 18, 2010 at 8:39 AM
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Efforts are under way to clean up earthquake debris from downtown Port-au-Prince in advance of November's presidential election in Haiti, officials said.

It could cost more than $1 billion to remove debris remaining from a Jan. 12 earthquake that killed at least 200,000 people. Haiti's reconstruction commission has approved a plan to clean up six neighborhoods, The New York Times reported.

Haitian officials said the country hadn't had the necessary funding to start cleanup efforts and it took a long time for international aid to arrive. One American contractor, Randall Perkins, said the sheer size of the cleanup may have overwhelmed the country's leaders.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton head the reconstruction commission, which recently approved a $17 million United Nations Development Program to start work cleaning up the downtown-area neighborhoods.

"This is what the people have been waiting for," said Perkins, watching his $400,000 hydraulic excavator tear into rubble in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Perkins entered into a contract with a Haitian company to remove debris from the earthquake, but he said it has taken a long time to get the cleanup process started.

"Finally, something is moving in debris," said Jessica Faieta, the United Nations Development Program's senior country director in Haiti.

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