February 8, 2010 / 7:24 PM / in 8 years

Haiti studies Colombian town for quake rebuilding

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Haiti’s interior minister on Monday toured a Colombian town rebuilt after a huge 1999 tremor as his own country considered plans to reconstruct its wrecked capital city after last month’s devastating earthquake.

Haitian government workers remove rubble in Port-au-Prince February 6, 2010. REUTERS/Kena Betancur

Haiti says more than 200,000 people were killed in the January 12 earthquake that shattered much of Port-au-Prince and left over 1 million people homeless, either sleeping in the streets or in makeshift camps.

Haitian Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime visited Armenia in Colombia’s coffee region, where a decade ago an earthquake killed at least 1,200 people, left tens of thousands homeless and destroyed 65 percent of the city’s buildings.

That quake prompted what Colombia has termed a model reconstruction involving the creation of a public entity called FOREC to better coordinate and channel international, state and private reconstruction and donation efforts.

“What we are proposing is a kind of FOREC international where the reconstruction can be carried out just as the Haitian people want it, but with each country assigned a responsibility under a general plan,” Colombian Interior Minister Fabio Valencia told reporters as he accompanied Bien-Aime.

The Colombian FOREC program won a United Nations prize for reconstruction.

The debate in Haiti on how to help those left homeless by the quake is becoming urgent with the approach of the country’s rainy season in March when the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation is often battered by floods and landslides.

The Haitian minister said his government’s three-part plan will move some of the 1 million homeless people out of the capital and help to allow others to stay near destroyed homes or in provisional shelters.

“We will move a part of the population that is now living in the streets of the capital,” the minister said. “Secondly we will help the people in temporary shelters so they can protect themselves from the rain, and thirdly help people stay in their neighborhoods in the shelters where they are now.”

Haiti’s disaster, which toppled part of the presidential palace, the Congress and many ministry buildings, has opened discussion over how to reconstruct the capital as experts warn about the dangers of another earthquake hitting the city.

“The decisions on reconstruction have not been completely defined,” Haiti’s minister said. “We know we are going to empty Port-au-Prince partly and take people to other areas. But we can’t say we are going to shift the capital completely.”

Reporting by Patrick Markey in Bogota; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman

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