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Bulldozers start razing Haiti's presidential palace

AFP

Saturday, April 10, 2010    

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) -- Bulldozers yesterday began razing Haiti's presidential palace, which had suffered major damage in the January 12 earthquake that devastated the country.

With witnesses, including homeless earthquake victims, looking on, two yellow bulldozers started on the main domed area of the grandiose National Palace built between 1914 and 1921 by architect George Baussan.

The work schedule "is not defined yet," said the chief of the presidential guard, Bernard Elias, adding that bulldozers were "going to stabilize the dangerous parts.

"The rest, we do not know yet," he added.

"We'll rebuild it stronger, more beautiful," said John Peter, a member of a group raising the Haitian flag outside the damaged palace.

French ambassador Didier Le Bret said Paris is studying ways to help rebuild the structure.

"We're always willing to contribute to the reconstruction, subject to feasibility studies," he told AFP.

But he noted that any aid "must take into account the new conditions of the country without making an investment that would be misunderstood by the people."

President Rene Preval said in January that France had proposed rebuilding an identical palace at a cost of at least 120 million euros (US$160 million).

The palace was 20,000 square metres (210,000 square feet), larger than the Elysee palace in Paris.

The magnitude-7 quake that struck Haiti on January 12 killed more than 220,000 people and left 1.3 million more homeless.

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