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Haiti's architectural landmarks reduced to rubble

Residents of Port-au-Prince could only watch and bid farewell to many of their landmarks as demolition teams cleared away the rubble that was once the Palais National and other monuments.

NEW YORK // Residents of Port-au-Prince could only watch and bid farewell to many of their landmarks as demolition teams cleared away the rubble that was once the Palais National and other monuments. Although this bustling city does not have the same reputation of architectural splendour as Havana, the Cuban capital, and Antigua, in Guatemala, Haiti was not without its attractive buildings.

The Palais National, a triple-domed presidential home that was modelled on the US White House and completed in 1920, was as symbolic as the nearby Palais de Ministères, built in the 1880s, which was also levelled. Along with the Palais de Justice and the Hotel de Ville, they rank among more than 40 buildings and monuments that Unesco has recorded as either damaged or destroyed by an earthquake that toppled as much as 50 per cent of the capital.

Residents claim the capital's ageing trademark "gingerbread houses", built with brick-filled timber frames, better withstood the earthquake than their shoddily-built modern concrete counterparts. Haiti's only inscription on Unesco's list of World Heritage Sites, the mountain Citadelle la Ferrière and palace of Sans Souci, survived. Less fortunate was the site Haiti hoped would be inscribed next: the centre of Jacmel.

The southern port town of 40,000 people was founded in 1698 and famed for its carnivals, vibrant art scene and merchant-owned town houses from the 19th century, many of which were ravaged. The restoration of Jacmel - similar to much of southern Haiti - has yet to begin in earnest. jreinl@thenational.ae

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