PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haitians regained access to another of life's necessities Saturday: their cash.
Banks shut down since Haiti's earthquake hit began opening their doors under heavy security. Some wire transfer offices had opened in previous days, but this was the first chance people had to tap their checking and savings accounts for desperately needed money.
It was the latest small step toward restoring some basic services to a populace living amid ruined homes, shops and offices, many of them sleeping and cooking in the streets and in parks. Emergency aid, including food and water, is being distributed more regularly. Crews could be seen rewiring utility poles, although no one expects power to be restored any time soon. At supermarkets — at least those not destroyed in the quake — basics like bread were readily available for the first time on Saturday.
In Port-au-Prince, lines formed early when the government announced over local radio stations that branches able to function would open at 9 a.m. Many banks collapsed in the devastating quake and others were damaged or looted.
Pierre-Jeanny Rousseau, 60 years old, was in the line under a hot sun outside the gates of a Unibank branch on the capital's Rue Bourdon, not far from downtown. He hoped to extract $200 wired to his account by relatives in the U.S., and planned to purchase some badly needed medicine. Although he was not injured in the quake, he has noticed blood in his urine.