Interior view of the destroyed Episcopal Cathedral Sainte-Trinite in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images
A number of Haitian conservators sprang into action just 24 hours after the earthquake. Stories abound of Haitians, finding solace in their shared history, singing through the first night of the disaster, afraid to re-enter their crumbling homes. In a school attached to the Holy Trinity Church some 250 students were killed. But following the natural disaster residents risked life and limb to get instruments out of the building and to safety so that they could be played again one day.
Restoration of murals in Haiti. Photos by Stephanie Hornbeck, courtesy of the Smithsonian.
In Italy, Tests and Trials Hone Skills
Nations with relatively well-tested natural disaster preparedness and resources can deploy their expertise quickly. A 6.2 magnitude earthquake tore through Amatrice, Italy, last month, killing roughly 296 people in the region. Days later, the hands on the small town’s central clock tower still read 3:36 AM, the exact moment that the quake hit. The clock broke and much of the town crumbled. But the 16th-century tower withstood the tremors. “Only that tower remains,” one Amatrice resident told the Washington Post, “which means that if she was left standing, we can make it, too. If she falls, I don’t know.”
Amatrice’s town center after the 2016 earthquake. Photo by Leggi il Firenzepost, via Wikimedia Commons.
UNESCO Champions Global Efforts
The skills and time put into Haiti did, however, prove valuable when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015. “We did similar first aid training,” says Wegener, who went to assist with the efforts in the country as part of an international effort. Christian Manhart, the head of the UNESCO office in the country, describes the monuments in the Kathmandu Valley as “heavily affected.” Manhart says that 743 historic monuments suffered damage, with roughly 18% percent collapsing entirely. UNESCO is currently engaged with numerous international partners on several projects in the country, working to establish databases and conduct the studies and research necessary to adequately protect heritage moving forward.
The destruction of Dewal at Pashupatinath Temple Area during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Photo by Nabin K. Sapkota, via Wikimedia Commons.