First Person

In Haiti, uneasy sleep amid quake fears

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Oxfam’s Coco McCabe is one of several Boston-based colleagues on her way to Haiti to help with the relief effort, where they will join over 200 Oxfam staff already on the ground. Here’s her latest update, dated January 18.

I suspect tonight might be my last night of sleeping soundly. Aftershocks are continuing to rattle the nerves of people in Port-au-Prince.

“Be careful,” said Yves Gattereau, a program director for Oxfam Quebec in the Dominican Republic, as we gathered for a debrief in San Juan. “You won’t sleep a good night of sleep. You’ll hear it coming. You won’t know if it’s the big one.”

Oxfam water distrubution in Haiti, January 18, 2010. Photo: Oxfam
Oxfam water distrubution in Haiti, January 18, 2010. Photo: Oxfam

And after the 7.0 temblor turned much of Port-au-Prince to rubble, the big one is on the minds of everyone–including Gattereau’s mother.

After the quake, Gattereau, who had not received word from his parents, went to look for them in their neighborhood near Port-au-Prince and found them sleeping in their car . Though their house and a guest house next door were still standing, neither felt comfortable spending the night inside. They’re not alone.

“Everybody is sleeping outside their house,” he said.

When the quake struck, his parents, who live half the year in Montreal and half the year in Haiti, were just about to leave home to visit a friend. Gattereau’s mother was outside, waiting for her husband.

“She fell down and the ground just opened in friont of her eyes,” he said. The memory of that gaping hole is too strong to bear. Gatterau said his parents have now come to live with him in San Juan while they decide what to do next.

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