With the world’s attention focused on Port-au-Prince, news of widespread destruction and loss of life in the beautiful coastal town of Jacmel has received little coverage. Reports from Jacmel, however, are that the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital also caused massive damages in the town, located south of the capital. “It is a complete devastation here. Personally, I am lucky to be alive,” said Emmet Murphy, head of the Haitian office of the US non-governmental organization ADCI/VOCA. “I was driving back to Jacmel in the mountains when the entire mountain seemed to fall down all around me. People were panicking, a building collapsed on the roadside and a huge dust plume raised from the valley floor. Seconds later and I would have been crushed by an avalanche that blocked the road and I had to abandon the car and continue on foot,” Murphy said in an email obtained by AFP.
“Jacmel is a disaster zone. Many houses are collapsed or severely damaged. Everyone was on the streets when I got to town. There must be many deaths judging from the way the houses collapsed and given the poor construction practices and materials,” Murphy added. “In addition to many houses collapsed in Jacmel town, one hotel called the Peace of Mind hotel collapsed completely and we fear that many perished. This is on the road to our office in a place called Meyer.” Murphy said displaced people were in urgent need of water, but it was unclear when any assistance would come their way.
Twitter reports indicate that major buildings in the city, including the church pictured above, have collapsed.
The beautiful Jacmel is a serene port town with an estimated population of 40,000. Known for its lovely 19th-century buildings, the town dates back to the 17th century. In the 19th century it was home to wealthy coffee merchants, whose gracious mansions (the models for the French Quarter in New Orleans) adorned the town. For Puerto Ricans like me, it is a city closely associated with our aborted independence movement, as it offered shelter for pro-independence leader Ramón Emeterio Betances in 1870. Then-president of Haiti Nissage Saget supported Betances’ ideals of a pan-Antillean union, and gave the uprising his support.
In recent years Jacmel has been host to a large film festival, the ‘Festival Film Jakmèl’ started in 2004 and in 2007 the international music festival ‘Festival Mizik Jakmèl’ was successfully launched. Its carnival, the nearby Bassins Bleu (Haiti’s most famous natural deep water pools), and the scenic white sand beaches attract many visitors.
The lovely town has been the setting for many of Haiti’s literary works, most recently Rene Depestre’s Hadriana dans tous mes reves and Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker.
For more on the destruction in Jacmel, including photos, go to http://www.javno.com/en-world/destruction-widespread-in-haitian-town-of-jacmel_289908