Haiti plans ‘subdued’ memorial 3 years after quake

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The Haitian government plans a low-key ceremony marking the third anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the country and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

President Michel Martelly on Saturday will preside over a “subdued” memorial on the grounds of the former National Palace, which was destroyed in the disaster and later demolished, said presidential adviser Damian Merlo. Senior government officials are expected to attend.

“It’s something we need to remember but not always be reminded of,” Merlo said of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

The U.N. also plans a small private memorial to mark the anniversary. Last year, the United Nations held a service to remember its 102 employees who died — the biggest loss of life of U.N. personnel in a single disaster.

Haiti’s government says the quake killed about 316,000 people. Another 1.5 million people landed in impromptu settlements around the capital and other cities in the south.

People have moved out of the more visible camps in public plazas but there are still more than 350,000 people living in the camps, according to the International Organization of Migration, a humanitarian group that helps people displaced by disaster and conflict.

The reconstruction effort has been slow to take hold because of political paralysis, the level of devastation and a trickle of aid. Only slightly more than half of the $5.3 billion pledged by donors has been released, according to the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti.

The government said that this year Jan. 12 will not be a holiday marking the earthquake as in the last two years. But it said in a statement it has asked that the Haitian flag be flown at half-mast and that nightclubs be closed.

Officials last year noted the occasion with back-to-back news conferences and meetings with former U.S. president and U.N. special envoy Bill Clinton in attendance and foreign aid groups touting their accomplishments.

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