Small Haitian town recovers from quake to rebuild itself

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The inhabitants of Gressier, a small town on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's quake-shattered capital, are working hard to rebuild their hometown with the help of UN peacekeeping forces, U.S. military units and foreign rescue teams.

On Sunday, U.S. marines and Sri Lanka's peacekeepers started to deliver food and bottled water to homeless Haitians in the town with a population of 26,000 in the southeast of the Haitian capital.

At one of the town's emergency camps, Lt. Maguire, a U.S. marine officer in charge of the food distribution operation, told Xinhua that "the United Nations picks the area and distribution spot ... we are here supporting the UN."

"Today (Sunday) is the first day for my unit to distribute food to local residents," he said, adding that his unit, which was diverted from a planned operation in West Africa, has been in Haiti for three days.

According to him, his unit can deliver food and water to two camps a day.

At a food distribution spot, U.S. soldiers and Sri Lanka's peacekeepers are busy distributing U.S. military rations equivalent to three meals to the local residents who lost their homes during the quake.

The Haitians, standing in long lines to wait for the rations, told Xinhua that they have had little to eat for almost 13 days since the quake.

The U.S. and Sri Lankan soldiers also gave a five-gallon bottle of water to each of the 240 households that have aged women.

Maguire said many other U.S. units, each equipped with two trucks fully loaded with food rations and bottled water, are now moving toward other areas on the same mission.

Maitre Reveilon Merceries, headmaster of a local school, told Xinhua that a local non-government organization called "Apag" has organized the evacuation of citizens who lost their homes in the quake to the tent camp.

He said the quake had crushed almost all houses in Gressier because the town is located in the middle between Port-au-Prince and the earthquake's epicenter.

"We still need more things to keep going," he said, explaining that the food rations handed out so far are not "enough for everyone."

Merceries said his school building had also collapsed in the quake, and the government had not yet tried to restore the schooling system.

"The government has not yet surveyed to find out how many teachers and students died in the quake," he said, adding that he did not think the government would start to do it right now.

According to the headmaster, the difficult situation has become worse as a sense of pessimism has beem growing everywhere among the residents.

"Every two or three years witness a natural disaster in the country," he explained. "People appear to be unfeeling now as if they are just waiting for another disaster to happen."

But he also admitted that the disasters have yielded at least one positive outcome: the creation of the non-governmental organization Apag as a response to 2004's Hurricane Jeanne that killed 3,000 people in the nation.

Myrick Louis, one of the organization's 31 workers, said Apag had begun taking action even before the United Nations discovered the camp.

"We had already come here to distribute cooking oil and other daily necessities," he said. "We have been distributing what we have to people in the hope of rebuilding a new Haiti."

The United Nations on Friday announced a new estimate of 75,000 deaths and 1 million homeless as a result of Haiti's quake, much less than the earlier estimate of 200,000 deaths and 3 million homeless by some other sources.

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