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PM: Haiti to Decentralize Power, Facilities in Reconstruction

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Haiti will decentralize power and facilities in reconstruction to reduce damage in disasters such as the January 12 earthquake, Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive said Tuesday.

The concentration of citizens in the capital city of Port-au-Prince was one of the reasons why the earthquake turned out to be so deadly, he told a press conference.

"It (Decentralization) is one of the pillars of our action plan," said Bellerive.

Haitians have long been forced to move toward the capital because government functions were highly concentrated in the city.

In 2004, a tsunami caused by an Indian Ocean earthquake killed a similar number of people but they were spread across 18 nations, whose governments remained intact, said Edmund Mulet, acting head of the UN mission in Haiti.

"This is why it has been one of the deadliest tragedies we have ever seen," Mulet said. "More than 200,000 died in urban areas."

The Haitian government estimated the quake might have killed at least 212,000 people. It also has made 1.1 million people homeless and destroyed around half of the houses in Port-au-Prince.

More than half a million citizens of Port-au-Prince are living outside the capital, after the government offered free public transport to those who wish to leave the quake area.

The government now plans to build villages and cities for those homeless away from the capital, said Bellerive.

"We have to look at internally displaced people. We want to house them in towns and villages where we can provide them with all the services that they have rights to use," Bellerive said.

He also said the current world supply could not satisfy Haiti's demand for 200,000 tents to house the homeless.

"We are trying to figure out how to make the materials in Haiti. That could be a way to provide jobs for thousands of people."

Indeed, Haitians are suffering unemployment as thousands of workplaces were destroyed and some places have not returned to normal due to public fears.

Many schools across the country remain closed because parents are afraid to send their children into school buildings, even if they appear undamaged.

The government opened schools in the non-affected areas 10 days ago, though many remain closed as there are not enough students.

With support from the United Nations Children's Fund, the government seeks to set up tent schools at quake camps.

(Xinhua News Agency February 10, 2010)