PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — President Michel Martelly urged Haitians to recall the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives in a devastating earthquake three years ago, marking the disaster’s anniversary Saturday with a simple ceremony.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton joined Martelly later in the day for a similarly quiet wreath-laying commemoration.
“Haitian people, hand in hand, we remember what has gone,” Martelly said in the morning as a gigantic Haitian flag flew at half-staff before him on the front lawn of the former National Palace, a pile of tangled steel reinforcement bars nearby. “Hand in hand, we’re remembering, we’re remembering Jan. 12.”
Martelly thanked other countries and international organizations for their help since the Jan. 12, 2010, disaster.
Clad in black, several dozen senior government officials gathered where the opulent white palace stood before it collapsed in the temblor and was later demolished. Foreign diplomats and Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova, earlier named by Martelly as one of Haiti’s goodwill ambassadors, were also there.
In the speech, Martelly announced a government contest seeking designs for a monument to honor those who died in the quake. He also said the government had just released a new construction code aimed at ensuring new buildings are seismically resistant in hopes of preventing the same kind of catastrophic damage in any future earthquake.
In the late morning, Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, joined Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in placing a wreath at a mass burial site north of the capital of Port-au-Prince. None of the three spoke at the event.
Clinton expressed hope about Haiti’s future in brief comments to reporters after the ceremony.
“I think that you will see, particularly in the economic sphere, a lot more in the coming year, where Haiti is projected to have the highest growth rate in the Caribbean,” he said. “Well, we hope to speed up some of the infrastructure. We have to repair the agriculture and … build a lot more houses. We’ve got to get those people out of those tents.”
Clinton, Martelly and Lamothe met privately in the afternoon.
Haiti’s previous presidential administration said 316,000 people were killed but no one really knows how many died. The disaster displaced more than a million others.
Most of the rubble created by the quake has since been carted away but more than 350,000 people still live in grim displacement camps.
Many people had hoped the reconstruction effort would have made more headway by now, but progress has been stymied by political paralysis, the scale of devastation and a trickle of aid.
Jan. 12 was observed as a national holiday the last two years to remember the quake. This year, the government said the day would no longer be a holiday but called for the Haitian flag to be flown at half-staff and for nightclubs and “similar establishments” to close.
The anniversary this year has been used by Haiti observers to criticize the reconstruction process and by foreign aid groups to promote their work and raise money. The European Union announced Saturday it was giving Haiti 30.5 million euros for displaced people still living in camps, as well as victims of a subsequent cholera epidemic and those affected by Hurricane Sandy late last year.
The Clinton Foundation also announced that it was contributing about 40 solar-powered streetlights to a housing community north of Port-au-Prince for deaf families who were relocated there.
But for some Haitians, it was just another day.
“We can’t remain focused on January 12th,” said Asaie St. Louis, a 56-year-old teacher and devout church-goer, Bible in hand. “It’s passed already.”
(AP PHOTO: Relatives of those who died in the 2010 earthquake walk in single file to place a cross on a hilltop to remember those who died in the devastating earthquake.)
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
29 photos Launch gallery
1. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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2. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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3. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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4. Jus haaaanngin out
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5. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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6. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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7. new new
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8. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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9. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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10. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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12. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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13. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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14. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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15. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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16. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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17. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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18. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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19. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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21. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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22. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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23. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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24. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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25. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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26. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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27. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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28. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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29. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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