Mass exodus from Port-au-Prince



Posted on January 23, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 23 at 4:17 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — As Haiti's capital lies devastated, thousands who once called it home now see no future there.

They are leaving in droves, some with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

A mass exodus is under way. Thousands of survivors are abandoning the ruins of Port-au-Prince in the island's fleet of dilapidated but colorful buses — not so much searching for a new life; just looking for any old way to survive.

For many, it may be a one-way ticket.

"No come back anymore," said one agitated man. "Port-au-Prince is finished... finished."

Outside, the temperature hits the mid-90s. Inside one of the rustbucket buses, it's boiling over. They're headed for the southern seaside town of Jeremie.

As they leave, these people are taking the only possessions they have left with them. They know the journey to their destination will take them 10 hours, and  they don't know when they will be back.

If you ever wondered what it really means to lose everything, look at the thousand-yard stare in rosie nelson's eyes. She was working at a kindergarten. Her five-year-old son sonson and 18-month-old daughter dachny were crushed to death at home.

"It's best not to cry, because everybody is dead; it's over with now," she said. "I only cried the first day."

Nelson doesn't even have photos her of her children. "There was no burial. I just threw them away. I tossed them away," she said.

Nelson displayed the only treasures left in her world — a kid's memo pad, an old slip for a $90 money transfer from Canada, and her Bible.

"The Lord is my refuge and strength," she said, reciting a Bible verse.


Other earthquake victims draw comfort from the small things they carry. A plastic water jug; a grubby Winnie the Pooh doll.

And more right behind them will be fighting for a seat on a bus to an uncertain future.