Haiti: A Nightmare Come True


Devastation in HaitiFirst of all, it breaks my heart seeing these poor people on television. It’s hard to watch… surreal in a sense. Sadly, its real and not just some bad nightmare we wake from. Haiti is a stone’s throw from Florida and if anyone wants a taste of reality, hop on a flight and you are mere hours from seeing the devastation first hand. Dead bodies piling up and the ambulatory masses wandering aimlessly in the streets. Mother nature is cruel. She is blind. When she exhales, brace yourself because any of your worst nightmares could come to fruition.

Why is the devastation so great there in Haiti? Simple: no building codes. It’s not like the residents and even the local jurisdictions and businesses have the means to access big banks with bulging pockets for any of their construction endeavors. Then what is their recourse if they wish to build a structure? Keep it very cheap and toss conventional safety measures out the window. Forget finding quality pine and Douglas fir like that found at Home Depot. Haiti’s do-it-yourself homes likely use standard building materials that include: porous cinder blocks, low-grade bricks, cheap cement, local rock/gravel, mud, limestone and whatever else they can scrounge together to form a mortar of sorts to slap over haphazardly placed rebar (if not some flimsy wire… or none at all). Toss a couple of pieces of corrugated tin roofing atop and presto, you got basic shelter.  A skilled set of hands can construct a stable building with these materials, but being one of the poorest countries in the world, I doubt sound construction practices are implemented.

A 7.0 magnitude quake is HUGE and I should know, I was thrown out of bed by the Hector Mine 7.0 magnitude quake back in 1999 after moving into a newly bought home in the desert of southern California. The epicenter was not at all far from me and my family. An antique display spittoon (with a heavy base) was sitting on the floor of our home before the quake and after I assessed the home for damage after the quake, the spittoon was on it’s side–think about it. The quake was a massive one. Thankfully, the only damage I could find was around the perimeter of the home, where the hard desert dirt displayed some cracking–which meant that the home’s base was literally sliding a bit as the seismic waves hit the home.

Side note: I had the pleasure of experiencing a recent 4.7 magnitude quake here in the L.A. area back in March 2009. I happened to be around for the 1987 5.9 magnitude Whittier-Narrows quake as well… (-sigh- Damn, I gotta get outta here!).

The point for which I bring up my old residence is that the home was built from wood using the standard building codes. If the home was built the way they were built in Haiti prior to the quake there, I am sure we would have suffered from injury or death because we were in a deep sleep at the time and response time to vacate the home was not that fast.

Codes are important. It’s a pain in the side of visionaries like me and others who wish to build with unconventional materials like shipping containers, but nonetheless, it is necessary for safety. Ironically, the most devastated homes and structures in the Haitian disaster are those of the more affluent; and the poorest of people fared better with their tin roofs and low home heights (though that isn’t much of a consolation given the scope of devastation). My heart, thoughts and best wishes are with them.

To help the poor souls in Haiti: RedCross.org

  • I am looking for a way to ship a container of tents to Haiti so those people will have temporary shelter. I’m in Washington State. Do you know of a way to get the tents to Haiti? Please let me know if you do.


    Roseanne Lasater

  • Terry


    You have a shipping container of tents? Please elaborate so that visitors can steer you in the right direction to get the tents down there to Haiti. I am sure someone knows of a way for this to get done, or at least coordinate it through all available means.

  • Renel


    Iam the founder of a foundation in Haiti, Little Piece of Heaven Foundation http://www.lphf.org next month I’ll be in Haiti shipping a lot of stuff so if you would like to get in contact with me just send me a note at my website contact page http://www.LPHF.ORG

  • We are the leading supplier of container house in China. We want to donate some container house to Haiti. Also we want to do find partner who has the relationship with local government. Our container house can be easilly assembled and shipped. Are there anyone who can help me? Thanks!
    More information on our website: http://www.arkprefab.com or http://www.prefab.com.hk
    Contact information: ARK(CHINA) COMPANY LIMITED
    Contact number: +86 021 60838082 or +86 021 60838081

  • Mathilde saget

    Hi Daniel. My name is Mathilde Saget. Originally I’m from Haiti, and I was there when the erathquake happend. I had the opportunity to visit some areas where people have nothing and lost everything that they had. I think it will be great if you can help to donate houses there near the neighborhood where I was. people are in great needs there. the town is Carrefour, Monrepos ( Port-au Prince). And also in the town where I was at carrefour(Port-au-prince) I can help you to get in touch with the mayor for partneship. If you need more information you can contact me: Sagetma@kean.edu, maath17@hotmail.com

  • Hi! Mathilde Saget! sorry for late response.
    Can you contact with me at my email address?

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