Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Haitian President Jovenel Moise marked the 10-year anniversary of an earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people by calling for unity amid political unrest that has stalled the Caribbean nation.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7-magnitude temblor struck Haiti, razing its capital and leaving more than 200,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and 1.5 million people homeless in 35 seconds. Moise, from the garden of the National Pantheon Museum in the capital of Port-au-Prince, reminded the nation that it was the Haitian people who were the first to rush to one another's help, that Haitians were the first to offer humanitarian aid, that they were the ones to dig each other out from the rubble.
"Today, while we mourn our dead, we must also salute the generosity of all those who have been acting as true heroes," Moise said in his speech. "We must salute the courage of those who survived hours, days under the ruins, confident that outside everything was done that they could get away alive."
In the wake of the earthquake, poor farmers in the country offered those made homeless "the little they don't have" while merchants emptied their stores "to offer drinks and food to children," he said.
"How many people have we met carrying the shredded bodies of a loved one, a neighbor, a colleague? How many, in the days following the disaster, went through every corner of their homes in search of anything that could help and relieve a neighbor, a stranger with whom they found refuge?" he asked.
Moise said that while Haiti broadcast to the world an identity of resilience following the tragedy, its often violent protests now send an image that incites fear in nations that offered help after the earthquake.
Moise asked the public to remember the strangers who dug them out of the ruins, who made them their first hot meals following the tragedy and to remember this sense of solidarity.
"In this moment, we need more than ever this solidarity... that gave us courage, which made us believe that we can rebuild our country," he said.
Moise's nearly three years at the country's helm has been blemished by often violent anti-government protests against increasing food and fuel prices, soaring inflation and government corruption that has put the country under several lockdowns in the past year, causing businesses to shutter and a Parliament vote to be canceled.
Though protests have waned since November, public unrest persists and on Monday Moise will rule by decree as most politicians' terms in parliament will expire. At least 107 business, union, human rights and other local organizations have signed a petition demanding Moise resign.
Earlier at St. Christophe in Titanyen, the official memorial site for those killed during the earthquake, Moise and his wife, Martine Moise, laid a wreath during a ceremony that included members of the United Nations, which participated in relief work, before being rushed away due to a dozen protesters attempting to enter the site, the Miami Herald reported.
"My heart goes out to all those who lost family, friends and loved ones," he said. "I will never forget the shock and sadness across the United Nations as we became aware of the scale of the tragedy."
The U.N., which lost 102 people during the earthquake, will hold a special ceremony in Tunis on Monday to inaugurate the Hedi Annabi Hall, in honor of Hedi Annabi who led the U.N. mission there.
According to the Haitian government, some $11 billion in foreign aid has been disbursed in its recovery effort.