Listen: 10 years on, Michle Montas recalls the day no Haitian can forget
"In the days following the earthquake ten years ago that killed around two hundred twenty thousand Haitians. The sounds of praying shouting. Not yelling filled the streets and a sense that this was the end of the world. Well that's one of the powerful memories from survivor. Michele Montas that former UN spokesperson who just returned turned home to live in her native country when disaster struck within hours she was working with the UN peacekeeping mission Nusa helping coordinate a huge international aid effort it the UN having lost one hundred and two of its own staff on that fateful day to mark the tenth anniversary this week she spoke to News Christina Silvio one aftershock after the other the initial one was in my house and lived with I saw the walls being just cracking. We all went out to nobody. Stayed in the houses of Forego `about to three nights. I spent a fulling three nights with a group of a school children in a Catholic nuns who across the street from me and nobody will go inside buildings and dissents that listening to people praying shouting yelling with the sense that this was the end of the world and that will not can that really marked me and we'll stay with me rest of my life. We realized how many people impacted only the following shoe days. The following is that's when I was called to join minister so I was retired from the UN. So I thought and I I was glad to join minister because dealer the only one we're capable of actually playing the coordinating role to help the aid. That was pouring into Haiti. While all the infrastructure was down including the airport. How really was able to a channel that eight and distribute that it? Can you talk a bit about what it was like that first response and the rescue and the emergency response what was it like. During those first days is to get it off the ground there was at the heart of it as well as you just said. Yes yes it was. It was about digging people out of of rubbles also which way which was not easy to Haitian government was all the administrative buildings had been destroyed. There was no national palace. Government was just is functioning inside a police station and the His government could not react had no means to react and the UN was there to actually get that aid even to the where troops coming from the US from Canada from different country are just arriving but it the first responders where people from the UN troops from the UN who actually were helping to dig people out of the rubble. We're we're helping also to evacuate people had been wounded and helping the medical teams coming into Haiti to set up emergency clinics in the street. That's where people were had to be amputated where had to be then transported to hospitals. They were not hospitals was that were really makeshift ones because the real hospitals had collapsed fifty centers in hospitals collapse. That day and there was no way that he's an infrastructure. Could take those people and do you. Employ extraordinary role in evacuating. Some people. Were actually as soon as it was possible. Possible to fly them out to fly them to different places where it could be taken care of the wounded even though the UN had also itself itself been hit quite hard yes the UN was was still trying to get people out of the rubble over the Christopher hotel we lost the UN lost one hundred and two people pulled that day and the people who were from the civilian mission. We've been working in that hotel in new almost vicky few people actually managed to get Out Alive. How long did that emergency response last in terms of the organization until it became less of an emergency response and more into to rebuilding? It took a while to it took a while because even rebuilding was done on a temporary basis. I we had a tense. For the people we thought lodging then we had a temporary lodging that were built we had camps that had to be installed with water supply and it took civil civil civil months while I would say up to six months before actually you know people could be taken care of six months in which they are to be taken care of the camps to be set up the food had to be distributed. Water was a great problem. The distribution of water and Dominica. Help all these where everything was urgent. Everything meanwhile the aid was being flown in could not cog was clogged into the airport report and to get that out to people who needed it took weeks and weeks. They were number of NGOs there and I have to say a lot of them came. Would you know wanting to help but not always knowing how to help. And that's a good thing that the UN was was there with the infrastructure. The agents for UNICEF was there all the agencies of the United Nations were there within the civilian mission. They were not at that building collapsed but they were able to react pretty fast into of a helping with the water with food and with the emergency response wants. What was it like for you to go through such a catastrophe and and live through it? What does that brought you? Well I think it marked my life and is very difficult to forget it. I don't think I will ever forget it. I don't think any Haitian can forget it. Every time they reverse we like the tenth anniversary three there was a fifth anniversary was marked. People can tell you exactly where the where when he happened. They can tell you exactly what we're doing they can tell you who the lost and in what circumstances they can tell you about you know waiting for hours for your loved one to be taken out of rebels they can tell you with great precision season and I can tell you we quit precision When I got friends out when I had to go tools when I saw buddies bodies being dumped in trucks and being taken to make shift a grave? We're we're dumping buddy because They cannot could not keep track because as the bodies were coming out they had to be taken. Some weird could not stay in in rot. And these you never forget this sniffer. Is there something about human character trait. That you've learned from that experience celebrity solidarity with it was destroyed idea from Haitians. Sion's was amazing as you had people with the bear Hanes d I d trying to get people out from under the rubble. solidiarity of people from slums rushing to help a people at the university that had collapsed students. Who are better off the way international diety I think the number of people who are in the US in Canada in France or over the world who contributed as much as they could for people for the first food aid for wooder for things that were immediately needed and also the solidity of countries remember one Medical team that from Israel Immediately to in started operating in a tent in the street and Taking care of people that need needed to be amputated because they were going to be effected. It had been taken out of the rubble but they had been there seven days. Four days or more do you think today. Haiti and Haitians are better. Prepared appeared to face catastrophe of that magnitude. It's difficult to see There were some things done. Do we have shown under protection civil. which is the organism in charge of the prevention of disasters that has been very efficient? had been efficient before four. Are doing different hurricanes hurricanes and we're really enforced by support from you in deep For instance and the are better able to D- to to predict for instance hurricanes and better able to respond to hurricanes and have been better able to within the last ten in years to respond to hurricanes. But you know would it be able to face a new earthquake. I'm the true reason being that. Essentially people try to rebuild. Once the international aid stopped people started rebuilding their homes. Do we the way they could With makeshift material. Some of it with a rebel from the earthquake in two thousand unintended in those affordable and will probably collapse in case there is another earthquake. Heat is better a way that it can happen and you have hasten especially saying the the out we have another possibility of another the earthquake coming to the north of the country and people are aware. And that's that's part of part of winning the battle of making making people aware of knowing what to do in case it happens of course in something as catastrophic as The two thousand ten earthquake. We'll meet a population with even more than their abilities. People report today in Haiti then the way when the earthquake happened in two thousand and ten"