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Cars making comeback in quake ravaged Port-au-Prince

In this image released by the UN January 25, 2010 shows a truck with Colombian soldiers drives in downtown Port au Prince.


Cars are making a come back on the streets of Port-au-Prince which can make getting around tricky. Driving typically involves near misses with on coming trucks, close calls with dogs or pigs, and more than a few hand gestures.

But then there was yesterday when our driver "Reggie", a former taxi driver, made an unusual request. We'd just finished watching a chaotic food drop just outside the Presidential Palace when we found Reggie drinking a beer and chatting with some young women. He gave us a warm hello and asked if we could give his cousin a lift. No problem. We all jumped into the car, a battered white Toyota with a smashed windshield, and drove for a few minutes before Reggie stopped and the cousin hopped out. "She has to get something" he said.

Within minutes the cousin returned holding a live chicken. What to do with bird? Reggie did not want it in the car so there was only one solution: the trunk. The cousin popped the chicken into the trunk, slammed it down and off we went.

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One of the eeriest places in the city is the main prison. Immediately after the earthquake hundreds of prisoners either escaped or were let out. What's left of the building stands not far from the city centre.

From the outside it's hard to tell that anything happened at all. The giant blue and white walls appear untouched by the quake. Even the main entrance, now strewn with razor wire and broken bricks, looks almost in tact.

Getting inside isn't difficult since the door is open. That's when the strangeness sets in. Much of the ceilings have been completely destroyed and many roof beams have been burned. The floor is covered with debris and sheets of bent corrugated metal. The only stable structure is a metal staircase that leads nowhere now. One room is littered with photographs of smiling children and families.

What is perhaps most chilling is the silence. While Port au Prince pounds outside, it is completely quiet inside.

Once we got back out on to the street a man started yelling at us. His complaint? We were supposed to have gotten authorization to go in.

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More


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