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Haiti village left to fend for itself after earthquake

By Matthew Price
BBC News, Haiti

Rubble in Leogane

The UN base at Leogane is full of vehicles, equipment, food, water and men. They are stationed to the west of Port-au-Prince at the end of a road leading through the small settlement where we are told some 5,000 people have been left homeless.

But instead of being out in the village, the UN representatives at this base are clustered around the front gate, laughing as they buy shampoo from a local salesman.

And while they do this, just a two-minute walk down the road in the village itself, the injured and the homeless are waiting.

As you drive in, they emerge from among the palm trees and sugar cane through the banana groves, and everyone wants to tell their story.

Nothing left

We are the first people from outside to come to Leogane since the quake hit.

As for the UN troops down the road?

"No," says one man.

House after house has been destroyed. Beds lie mangled under the weight of rubble. A child's bicycle sits atop one pile.

Paul Ernest
Paul Ernest has fashioned an improvised shower in front of what was his house

They have salvaged what they can and the meagre belongings that they have left are now sitting out in the fields next to the shelters they are putting up - tents made of old sheets and, if they are lucky, some salvaged corrugated iron held fast against a tree branch.

Down one lane, a man grins as he chops the end off a plank, part of what will be his new home.

And atop a concrete block stands Paul Ernest, a pink towel tied around his waist. Here, under what remains of the balcony of his old house, is his new shower.

People point to houses where relatives were killed. Others gently say they have nothing left.

One man says the water is no longer safe to drink. People are thirsty. Some plead for help, to come and see the injured.

Shelter in Haiti
A makeshift shelter is put together by villagers

They bring one man out, his leg dragging behind him in the dirt.

A church and a school are damaged. The village pharmacy is flattened. Any medicine that might help here is trapped inside the rubble.

Under a sheet sits Marianne Deboulie. She has a bandage tied around each of her swollen legs. Both, she says, are broken. The concrete fell on top of her and pinned her down.

Up above, a lone military helicopter hovers for a moment. From inside, someone looks down at us, and then the aircraft flies away.

Communication difficulties

Back at the base, the World Food Programme is about to distribute some biscuits. They've brought in half a lorry load.

Also back at the base, the UN troops stand around in the shade.

Helicopter in Haiti
A lone helicopter hovers above the village

A UN spokesman said the 9,000 peace keeping personnel in Haiti are helping with the relief efforts and one of their roles is providing a secure environment for aid to be distributed.

There are communication difficulties and perhaps the commander could not get proper orders, or information.

But surely, you might think, he could send a few men into town to see if there was anything they could do?



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