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Shattered city government in quake-ravaged Port-au-Prince in need of help itself
An hour later, the engineer pulls up. Laurent Rousseau glances at the building, turns to Laurole and says: "I'm not going in there. My house didn't go down. I'm already saved. I'm not going to put my head on the chopping block."
Laurole, a tall 48-year-old wearing cargo shorts and a sleeveless gray T-shirt, yanks the surgical mask from his mouth. "Everyone here is scared!" he says to no one in particular, spinning on his heels. He nudges Rousseau into the building and waits outside.
Laurole recognizes the face of a city employee in a pickup truck inching by in traffic. "I need you!" Laurole yells. But the employee turns his head.
"I hate that guy!" Laurole says.
Moments later, a gaunt woman is tapping Laurole's shoulder, complaining that the city government is doing nothing for her. He listens patiently for five minutes but finally can't take it anymore: "Go ask your president," he says sarcastically, stomping away.
No place for city business
Port-au-Prince is largely dependent on the national government for money and other resources, and there is always tension between the two governments. For instance, Port-au-Prince employs garbage collectors, but Laurole says the law allows the city only to pile up garbage, while the national government owns the trucks that collect trash.
"There's no coordination," he says. Indeed, garbage-strewn streets are the norm in Port-au-Prince, but the lack of coordination -- and the mountains of waste -- are even more evident since the earthquake.
Two young men walk across the street and tell Laurole that people are beginning to suffer from diarrhea -- the sidewalks provide ample evidence. Laurole shrugs, and the two walk away.
Finally, Rousseau, the engineer, emerges from the annex building and starts writing a report, leaning on the hood of a dusty Toyota Corolla.
Laurole paces. "I need him to say this building is safe," he says.
As soon as he gets clearance, Laurole says, he will ask one of the few radio stations still functioning to announce that the meeting will take place at 10 the next morning.
He hovers over Rosseau.