The quake destroyed much of the Route du Canape Vert, according to eyewitnesses, leaving both Haitians and relief workers arriving from the U.S. and around the hemisphere with one fewer piece of infrastructure that was actually serviceable. Even in good times, services like potable water and sanitation are primitive in Haiti. But in the quake’s aftermath, in an e-mail to friends and family, an official with one international organization based in Port-au-Prince wrote bluntly, “The city [now] has no infrastructure for health care, no security forces, all roads are full of debris and [fallen] walls. My hotel has totally collapsed.” He says there is “nothing on the ground to support relief,” and adds, “I will need help to make it through the next few days. I am faced with a decision to evacuate or stay here to help.” He signs off somewhat ominously by noting, “There are already people knocking on our gates for help.”
There were other ominous developments: the head of the national police told CNN that he believes there may be 1,000 criminals on the loose after the country’s main prison collapsed in the quake. Port-au-Prince is already vulnerable to gang law during emergencies like this, and it will be hard for relief workers to do their jobs if they do not feel secure. Meanwhile, buildings continued to totter in the wake of the temblor. Ian Rodgers, Save the Children’s Emergency Response Adviser wrote on the group’s blog: “We could hear buildings still crumbling down five hours after the earthquake.” And the destruction wasn’t just confined to Port-au-Prince: officials say the quake affected at least a third of Haiti’s 9 million people.