Haiti holds day of mourning

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Haiti has been holding a day of national mourning exactly one month after the earthquake struck, killing at least 217,000 people. Haiti's President Rene Preval vowed that his country will live on. Other prayer services were held across the country, including one at the site of a mass grave outside the capital which is believed to hold tens of thousands of victims. Marco Werman talks with the BBC's Nick Davis in Haiti.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. It's been an emotional day in Haiti. Today marks exactly one month since the January 12th earthquake devastated the country's capital and surrounding areas. And estimated 230,000 people died. Today was a day to remember those victims


MARCO: Some mourners convened at the site of a mass grave outside the capital Port au Prince. Tens of thousands of victims were buried there. Larger ceremonies were held close to the devastated cathedral in the City Center. There thousands of Haitians wearing white gathered to sing hymns at an open-air service. Rolandres Prophet is a teacher in Port au Prince. He says today Haitians are united in grief.

ROLANDRES PROPHET: The country looks like one now where everybody unites, a scene that you don't see very often in Haiti. So the earthquake really despite all the [INDISCERNIBLE] went to have made it possible for people to come together, so we can consider it's like a [INDISCERNIBLE] day where people like rely on each other.

MARCO: But he says for many Haitians the pain caused by last month's earthquake is still all too real.

ROLANDRES: Today people are trying to remember those they have lost but at the same time you have people, the family members mothers, fathers and sons was up to their elbows and they haven't pulled these people out yet. So you can imagine today it's a mixed feeling, people want to move on and people want to move their loved ones under the rubble.

MARCO: Teacher Rolandres Prophet in Port au Prince today. The BBC's Nick Davis is in the Haitian capital and Nick what has it been like to witness these ceremonies today, this coming together?

NICK DAVIS: Well I was down by the Presidential Palace. You may remember from the TV pictures the aftermath of the actual quake it was the symbol of the Haitian people, the home of the President destroyed, it was crumbled in and basically collapsed in on itself. Today there were tens of thousands of people around it, coming together a real focal point of that mourning, many people dressed in white as a sign of remembrance for the people who were lost in that quake. As I walked around people were holding their hands in the air, others were in prayer, and there was a pastor or preacher talking to the countless thousands of people saying to them at one point God bless America and God bless Haiti. Really an opportunity for many people in Haiti to actually reflect on the events of the last month or so. It came as such a shock to them. And then again you have to bear in mind that burial and death, there's so much ritual which goes with it here in the country, the mass graves robbing people of the opportunity to really commemorate the lives of their loved ones.

MARCO: Did you get a sense Nick that it was cathartic for these people and a counterpoint to their grief?

NICK: Yes in many respects. One of the things which has really struck me being in Haiti is how religious people are and how much they have been buoyed by their faith in terms of being able to deal with the devastating earthquake. Everybody you speak to they always seem to say when you ask them about the event they look at you and they say well, you know, I think God that I'm alive and you know I really do believe that at some stage things will get better.

MARCO: Is Haiti still in total emergency mode or do you think it's crossed over to a transition of sorts?

NICK: No, when you walk around it's clear that the relief operation is still patchy in parts. There are camps which I've revisited which now have tents which is clearly a sign of improvement, There are much more distribution centers. In most places it's done in a very organized way. But you don't have to go too far off the beaten track to find places where there's been no aid; there's been no relief. I spoke to a 18 year old called Prophet, [PH] Andrefis Prophet and he said to me that we were the first people he'd seen as far as he's concerned from the outside world who'd shown an interest in his community when we drove up this gravel path to his community there was just the same scene which we've seen repeated all over Port au Prince. You know the tarpaulin or in his case bed linen sort of stretched across wooden poles with string just to give them some form of shelter. And he was saying that they have to pool their money together, different people within the community including his former head teacher to find a way to survive because they'd gotten no food, they've received no food at all since the 12th of January.

MARCO: The BBC's Nick Davis in Port au Prince. Thanks as always Nick.

NICK: A pleasure.