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Haiti PM opens residence to quake victims

world Updated: Jan 23, 2010 10:47 IST

AFP
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The gardens of Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive's grand official residence have become an unlikely home for almost 1,000 survivors of the massive earthquake that devastated the capital.

"I am proud that the prime minister has opened the gates of his garden, even if I feel a little sad," said Leon Frantz, a young doctor who lost his house in the January 12 disaster, but goes to the residence everyday to help distribute medicine

Looking like a relic of the Caribbean nation's colonial past, the white villa with red roof tiles sits on the top of a little hill, with the gardens stretched out beneath.

But while the grounds used to be an oasis of calm in chaotic Port-au-Prince, they are now buried beneath a sea of white and blue plastic sheets laid out by people left homeless in the quake.

The palace itself is closed because of the risk of landslides. Inside, a valuable set of historic dishes has been smashed, pictures have fallen off the walls and the walls have cracked as if made of clay.

The prime minister's cabinet chief, Juve Herve Day, sat on the patio and prepared to spend another night in his car.

"Before I go to sleep I like to take a walk to listen to their complaints," said Day, pointing out the crowds of people who ferry water through the gardens and cook beneath their makeshift shelters.

A hand-out of aid by the Red Cross sparked scuffles and shouting in the gardens of the residence.