The New Year had barely started when Haiti was hit with a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, with an epicenter just 16 miles from the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince. The quake, reportedly the worst in two centuries in the country, impacted up to 3 million people, according to the Red Cross.

The Haitian government reported that approximately 230,000 people died, and over a million were left homeless. It also reported that 30,000 commercial buildings were no longer usable.

The world wide response to the crisis was amazing, with a multitude of organizations and governments pledging money and other resources to rescue people and assist with rebuilding. This has not turned into a reality for the country – many of the pledges resources have still not been delivered.

Almost a year later, the majority of those displaced by the devastating earthquake still reside in shelters, in temporary tents and other makeshift housing.

The earthquake was not the only reason Haiti was in the news this year. This was an election year for the country, and the process was postponed because of the earthquake. Along with senators and deputy seats to be selected, a new president was to be selected.

Recording artist Wyclef Jean made the news with a bid to get on the ballot as a candidate for president, but failed because he did not meet the qualifications. But by the time the rescheduled elections took place on Nov. 28, no clear winner for president emerged from the field of 18 candidates for the office and the result kicked off unrest in the country. The runoff election is scheduled for mid-January 2011 between Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady of Haiti, and Jude Célestin, a candidate from the current governing party.

Jamaica was plunged into civil unrest and the government declared a state of emergency in two parishes in Kingston after shootings and firebomb attacks on police stations in May. According to reports, the attacks were related to keeping Christopher “Dudus” Coke out of the hands of authorities who’d finally agreed to extradite him to the United States as requested.

Coke is wanted in the U.S. as the leader of the Shower Posse, a group allegedly reponsible for murdering hundreds of people during cocaine wars in the 1980s. Coke, 42, took over the gang around 1991, after the death of his father and older brother.

The United States first request for Coke’s extradition was pushed aside by the Jamaician govenment in 2009. But in May it issued a warrant for Coke’s arrest. Reportedly 70 people – civilians and police – were killed before Coke, who’d been barricaded in the Tivoli Gardens, was apprehended at a checkpoint on June 22. He appeared in a U.S. Court on June 25, entering a plea of not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Many people are calling for the big oil conglomerate BP to go on trial for the catastrophe that propelled it into this year’s review. On April 20 the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 workers, injuring 17 others and starting what has been described as the largest oil spill in U.S. controlled waters. The spill came from a sea floor gusher that released an approximate average of 53,000 barrels daily for 87 days. Until the well was capped on July 15, an estimated 206 million gallons of oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico.

The impact of this oil spill, which easily surpassed the volume of the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, continues. Oil from the spill made it to the 125 miles of Louisiana coast and was found on Alabama, Florida and Mississippi barrier islands. A fisheries disaster for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi was declared by the federal government and a fishing ban remains in effect for approximately half of the Gulf.

BP has agreed to foot the entire cost for cleanup effort and to pay all claims, spending, so far, over $3.2 billion. While there is still much to be done, the underwater well was officially declared sealed by the U.S. government on Sept. 19.

Freeing underground resources led to another disaster this year, but one with a much happier ending. On Aug. 5 a cave-in at the San Esteban copper and gold mine, near Copiapo, Chile, trapped 33 miners. The miners were able to make their way to an underground shelter – about 2,300 feet down – where some supplies were kept.

After 17 days, the miners sent a note out to the surface attached to a probe sent in by rescue crews. At the time rescuers said they would be able to send in food and supplies, but that it would take months – because of the instability of the mine and the depth of the trapped men – to get them out.

After 66 days, the miners emerged through a 28-inch hole that had been drilled and secured for their rescue as the world looked on.


Talibah Chikwendu

Special to the AFRO