Haiti's banks reopen

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Haitians lining up outside a bank.
Image: VOA TV.

Banks in Haiti have reopened for the first time since the earthquake. The central bank of Haiti reopened last Thursday and privately-owned banks opened Saturday. Private banks are allowing withdrawals of up to 2,500 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to about US$63 or £29). Bank officials were prepared for large crowds with extra security personnel. Officials say providing money to the disaster-struck people is essential to get Haiti back on its feet.

As Haitians flood into the banks and transfer offices, transactions are taking up to 10 hours. Haitian officials are unable to determine the amount of money flowing in from relatives outside the earthquake-ravaged country.

At one money transfer office on Tuesday, as many as 300 people lined up. Haitian Natasha George told The New York Times that she had been waiting in line since 3 a.m.

At another office on Monday, Louise Patricia Saint Rose had been sleeping in the street and been waiting for three days for money from her husband is in the United States.

“They are stealing from us and I need it badly,” Saint Rose said. “My daughter was injured. We’re sleeping in the street — I need to buy water and food.”

According to the Voice of America the earthquake killed an estimated 110,000 people, however according to the Haitian minister, 150,000 are dead.

As many customers have lost identification documents in the earthquake, bank officials are having trouble ensuring eligibility. They are relying on personal details and information that would be known to the customer only.

Citibank, a New York bank, lost its locations due to the earthquake's devastation. Gladys Coupet, a Citi of Haiti official, said, "No institution or individual in Haiti escaped unscathed by the tragic events of January 12th. We at Citi were no exception, having lost five of our dear employees."



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