Haiti: Russian Interpol Officer Blogs About Disaster

Yuri Firsov

Yuri Firsov

Until recently, the Russian blogosphere didn’t have its own citizen media source in Haiti. There were no direct witnesses of the devastating earthquake among Russian bloggers. But the bloggers suddenly discovered the blog of Yuri Firsov [RUS], an Interpol officer in Haiti.

Firsov is one of eight Russians who serve in the UN criminal police (Interpol) in the country. As an UN officer, he travels from one hot spot to another and occasionally finds time to jot down his impressions on his blog. Firsov arrived to Haiti at the beginning of December 2009 when he cheerfully updated his blog with detailed description of his arrival.

His second post from Haiti appeared on January 14, two days after the first shock. Since then, Firsov was writing blog posts almost on a daily basis providing his Russian-speaking readers with inside look on the horrible tragedy.  Below are the most interesting extracts from his posts:

January 12, 2010 [RUS]

В 16.45 приблизительно… я почувствовал (а я был за рулем) как Ниссан неожидано вышел из-под контроля, ощущение было словно на большой скорости въежаешь на “терку”…. машина пошла юзом в сторону боковой канавы слева….а справа, как во сне, длиннющий, на пару сотен метров, бетонный забор вдруг пошел ленточкой, словно состоял не из бетонныйх блоков, а был из ситца… остановившись, мы обнаружили, что Ниссан все равно трясется…я вышел на дорогу- та плавно ходила под ногами… тут даже дураку бы стало понятно что, что-то происходит… понял и я… точнее все трое мы поняли, что это землятресение… минуту спустя оглядевшись, я увидел дома, более не скрывавшиеся за забором- лишившиеся крыш и покосившиеся в секунду… на дорогу стали выбегать, выползать люди, многие в крови…

Somewhere around 4:45 PM… I felt like my Nissan (I was driving) suddenly lost control and I felt like I was driving up on a “grate”. The car slid to the left side of the road… and on the right, like in a dream, a very long concrete fence began to shiver like it was made of printed cotton and not of huge concrete blocks. We stopped and found out that our Nissan is still shivering… I went out to the road – it was wobbling gradually under our feet. Even a fool would understand what was happening… I understood as well… to be precise, all three of us understood that this was an earthquake… a minute after I saw houses that were no longer hiding behind the fence, they were without roofs and sank a little to the side… People started running and crawling out on the road. Many of those were covered with blood.
Hotel Haiti Destroyed By the Quake, phot by Yuri Firsov

Hotel Haiti Destroyed By the Quake, phot by Yuri Firsov

Two days later, Firsov wrote [RUS] that all the chiefs of the UN police force were found dead [EN]. The streets were ruled by chaos and anarchy. From time to time, resuming shocks provoked panic among people. Dead bodies wrapped in cloth were laying right on the city streets and houses looked like pleats. There were rescuers only near few blockages. The UN base had to be turned into a hospital. One could hear screams of the operated and feel the smell of death all around the base.

On January 15, Firsov wrote [RUS] that his colleagues were spending nights at the office because they were afraid to stay at home. People left their clothes, personal belongings and even mattresses at the UN base just not to come back to the houses which might become their graves at any given moment. Dead bodies were burned to prevent epidemic.

Подъежая к нашему госпиталю, мы увидели облако смога, накрывшего практически весь район и почувствовали смрадный запах горящего мяса… еще несколько завернутых в простыни тел валялось на тротуаре невдалеке… дым, взависимости от направления ветра, то накрывал лагерь, то уносился в сторону домов в конце улицы… Да уж… неприятное соседство…

While approaching our hospital, we saw a smog cloud that covered almost all the district and felt stinking smell of burnt flesh… some more wrapped-up bodies were laying on the sidewalk not far away… Smoke, depending on the wind direction, either covered the full camp or was carried away to the end of the street… Well, yeah… Unpleasant neighbors…

Yuri also described the arrival of a woman with two kids who spent 84 hours under wreckage. A nurse that was taking care of kids had to lull them by herself since the mother was too shocked to do that. Yuri took a picture of a tired and frightened boy hiding under a piece of rag.

Boy hiding under a piece of rag, photo by Yuri Firsov

Boy hiding under a piece of rag, photo by Yuri Firsov

On January 17, Firsov talked [RUS] about his new habit and the most frightening thing about the earthquake:

После Югославии у меня на долгие годы осталась привычка , выходя из машины не вступать на обочину, тем более на траву и смотреть под ноги везде, где нет твердого покрытия… После Гаити теперь буду долго смотреть на люстры и стаканы с водой… Все же страшен не сам процесс трясения…если конечно не застал он под крышей здания… страшны последствия – хаос,разрушения, боль и жертвы, слом всего устоявшегося уклада..

I have a habit after being in Yugoslavia. When I go out of a car, I never put my feet on the roadside and never on the grass. I always look under my feet everywhere where I step and where’s no solid cover. After Haiti, I will have a habit to look at lamps and glasses with water. It’s not the shiver what is the most frightening…of course unless you’re not trapped under the roof… consequences are the most frightening – chaos, destruction, pain and victims, demolition of the whole order…

On January 21, Firsov wrote [RUS] about a patrol to the Cité Soleil, a shanty town, that the community regarded to be the most dangerous area in Haiti. However, the situation turned out to be relatively quiet. There were no shootings or aggression, Firsov said.

В полдесятого мы были в Сити-Солейл… Я был в смятении… мы ехали по узким улочкам Сити-Солейл, в темноте по обоим сторонам теснились домишки , многие разрушенные, люди в основном спали на дороги… поэтому ехали мы очень медленно, объезжая группки расположившихся на ночь людей… кто спал на простынях, у кого были матрасы, кто просто на голом асфальте… В ночи все это выглядело как кадр из фантастического фильма –катастрофы… люди на дороге , полуразрушенные остовы домов, торчащие балки вместо крыш…

так мы и лавировали между телами, люди при приближении наших машин поднимали головы,смотрели, но ни вражды, ни агрессии на их лицах не было… А как же те страшилки, что нам рассказывали, про стаи мородеров, орудующие по городу… Слов нет- этот район очень неблагополучный-и кримнинал тут выше чем везде и бедность просто шокирующая, и безработица с безнадегой… Но мы ехали и никто на нас не нападал, не стрелял… и мои же слова про то, что сцда без батальона бразильцев суваться опасно, выглядели очень глупо для меня самого… я попался на удочку предрасудков и чужого непроверенного мнения , раскрученного прессой страшного образа…

At half past nine we were at Cité Soleil. Small houses sat close to one another in the darkness, a lot of them destroyed, most of the people slept on the streets… this is why we were going very slow, going round small groups of sleeping people… someone slept on the bed sheets, someone had mattresses, someone just laid down on concrete. At night, it all seemed as footage from a sci-fi disaster movie… people on the street, half-destroyed frames of houses, beams instead of roofs…

While we maneuvered round the bodies, people raised their heads when our cars approached, looked at us, but there was neither hostility nor aggression on their faces. And what about all those scary stories people told us about bands of looters active in the city? I have no words – this neighborhood has many problems, the criminal situation is much worse than anywhere, the poverty is shocking and there is unemployment along  with no positive developments in the future… But we went through and no one was attacking us, no one was shooting… and my own words that it’s dangerous to come here without a battalion of Brazilians seemed very stupid for me then… I got confused by the prejudices and others’ unchecked opinion promoted by mass media…

On January 23, Firsov wrote [RUS] about constant aftershocks and how the animals reacted to them a couple of hours earlier.

Одиннадцать суток с момента землетрясения… .вчера приехали из Сити Солей в 2 ночи-…неожиданно завыли собаки, начали петухи кукурекать и издавать свои нечленораздельные звуки ослики и ишаки… Утром проснулся от толчков- опять трясло… несколько раз шатнуло здорово, я даже привскочил…Получается собаки воют за несколько часов до толчков? … Отметить хоть какую то закономерность в поведении окружающих животных не получается… они то дружно замолкают , наводя на худшие мысли, то вдруг скопом орут, вызывая желание выбежать на улицу- а результат один и тот же.

Землетрясение вообще как война, только враг невидим и неосязаем… он наносит удар из- под тишка, точнее из-под земли и все… остальное дело ваше- спасайтесь кто как может… Лежа по ночам и покачиваясь на волнах грунтовых колебаний, я подумал – даже в чрезвычайных ситуациях – в Косово, В Боснии, когда стреляли, во время беспорядков в Тиморе, не было этого чувство, какого-то животного страха, страха от того, что от тебя ничего не зависит… когда стреляют- адреналин бьет в голове ключом и думаешь – посмотрим еще кто кого… а тут…

Eleven days passed since the quake… We returned from Cite Soleil yesterday at 2 a.m.… suddenly dogs started howling, roosters started crowing, and donkeys started making their inarticulate sounds… In the morning I woke up from the shocks – aftershock again… Couple of powerful pushes made me jump off the bed… So it looks like dogs howl couple of hours prior to the shocks… I couldn’t figure out any regularity in the animals’ behavior… they either got simultaneously silent, making you think of the worst, or shouted altogether, making you feel like running out to the street – but the result is all the same.…Earthquake is like  awar, but you can’t feel or see the enemy… this enemy hits you suddenly, from under the ground, to be precise… all the rest is up to you – every man for himself. When I was lying at night, slowly rocking on the aftershock vibrations, I thought that even in the extreme situations – in Kosovo and in Bosnia – when there was shooting or during the civil unrest in Timor, there was no such feeling, there was no animal fear, the fear that you don’t have any control of your life… when there’s shooting, adrenaline pumps to your head and you think “we’ll see who will win”… and here…


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