U.S. Department of State

Rubble Removal: Fast Facts on the U.S. Government's Work in Haiti

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Fact Sheet
Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator
July 15, 2011

When a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, an estimated 10 million cubic meters of rubble was produced in just 30 seconds, enough to fill nearly three Louisiana Superdomes. Rubble not only serves as a visual reminder of the earthquake’s destruction, it is an obstacle to reconstruction and development. As of June 2011, the U.S. Government (USG) had removed more than 1.65 million cubic meters of rubble.

Facing the Challenges Ahead
In addition to the sheer volume of rubble produced by the earthquake, Haiti faces challenges to successfully clearing neighborhoods, including steep terrain and narrow roads, unclear land tenure, and a lack of dumping sites. Rubble removal is difficult in any urban area, and is particularly challenging in the narrow, crowded streets and hilly terrain of Port-au-Prince.

In addition, because much of the rubble came from collapsed buildings on private land, property owners must agree before rubble can be removed. The USG is working to ensure that rubble is removed efficiently, while respecting property rights.

Another significant obstacle in rubble removal is the lack of sufficient dumping sites. Currently, there is only one rubble dumping site for the entire city of Port-au-Prince. In order to dispose of rubble in a safe and environmentally suitable manner, additional appropriate sites must be identified.

Working in Partnership With the People of Haiti
USG rubble removal programs use heavy machinery to remove large amounts of rubble quickly; heavy machinery programs train and employ Haitian youth, providing a skillset for the future. When narrow roads and inaccessible sites limit the use of heavy machinery, Haitians are employed to remove rubble by hand, providing a source of income for families. The U.S. Government has cumulatively employed more than 350,000 people, of whom 40 to 50 percent are women, in short-term employment programs, including projects to clear rubble.

Rubble removal is a goal in itself, and provides an example of how long-term development and short-term reconstruction projects coincide. Every major rubble removal decision – from prioritizing clearing sites to determining dumping sites – has been made in close coordination with the Government of Haiti. In addition, the USG is engaging Haitian and Haitian diaspora firms, whose unique relationships, linguistic skills, geographical awareness, and technical expertise make them instrumental in helping Haiti advance. In fact, one of the first post-earthquake contracts was awarded to a Haitian-American 8A firm for debris management at Trutier landfill, the sole site in Port-au-Prince for rubble disposal.

The U.S. Government is committed to working hand-in-hand with the Government and people of Haiti to complete this essential step to reconstruction.

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