- Title: HAITI: Plush Haitian golf club houses at least 20,000 displaced people
- Date: 20th January 2010
- Summary: US SOLDIERS AND HAITIANS WHO ARE WAITING FOR SUPPLIES
- Embargoed: 4th February 2010 12:00
- Location: Haiti
- Country: Haiti
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Social Services / Welfare
- Reuters ID: LVA1AOGFBGXOFGYJW0VQT9IQYV3J
- Story Text: A plush nine-hole golf course becomes a tent city that houses between 20,000 and 40,000 thousand homeless people. The U.S. 82nd Airborne Division is also using the club as a command center for their operations.
The prestigious Club Petionville, on a hill in spacious grounds overlooking Port-au-Prince and the Caribbean sea beyond, is Tuesday (January 19) probably the biggest displaced persons camp in Haiti after last week's catastrophic earthquake.
Elite U.S. soldiers lie exhausted on tennis courts and beside a pool. Thousands of homeless people cram the nine-hole golf course. Helicopters land every half an hour with crates of water and food aid.
"We're at this makeshift refugee camp at Petion Club, which is a golf course. It's hard to know how many people are here, we're estimating around 20,000 during the day, but at night people come back from being in the city so it could be upwards of 30 or 40,000, we don't really know," said Lane Hartill, an aid worker from Catholic Relief Services.
Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere but its elite came to the country club's elegant stone headquarters to dine and mingle with foreign diplomats and businessmen. Now the club houses commanders from the U.S. military's crack 82nd Airborne Division.
Down the lawns and beyond a loose military cordon, the golf course is covered with tents, made from poles and sheets by people who flocked onto the club's grounds after the earthquake brought down its perimeter walls, as well as their homes.
The club, named for former Haitian President Alexandre Petion, largely escaped damage, save a few broken pillars.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti last week has killed between 100,000 and 200,000 people, according to the government, and left several million on the street.
Unlike chaotic scenes elsewhere, with people fighting and scrambling for water and food, an orderly queue winds up the lawns of the club. Each person at the camp is allowed two bottles of water and one Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) ration.
The mass of flimsy tents and thousands of people lying on the grass give the appearance of a traditional refugee camp but a closer look reveals differences, perhaps reflecting the better-off social milieu of areas near the club.
Many of the displaced are comfortably trilingual: Creole, French and English. The occupants of two or three tents even had solar panels outside, charging up some mobile phones.
Since Saturday, U.S. soldiers have attended the displaced from sunrise to sundown at the Petionville Club. On Monday, they gave out an estimated 20,000 bottles of water.
Many people at the camp say many needs are unattended. With the golf course on a high slope, the temperatures have dropped fast at night, and that has killed various children.
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