Quake is good trade for some

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haiti's devastating earthquake has meant huge profits for traders selling water, oil and phone cards in the capital.

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haiti's devastating earthquake has meant huge profits for traders selling water, oil and phone cards in the capital.

General shortages and an influx of foreigners with dollars since the January 12 quake have led to record price rises for everything from water, to gas, to phone cards, to taxis.

While the Haitian capital remains devastated, anyone who managed to stash extra food, petrol or cigarettes can now get rich - quick.

"I had several cans of gasoline at home for a factory on my property and I have been selling them little by little," says Ludovic.

Now the canisters he sells disappear in minutes.

"It's 400 Haitian gourdes, no haggling," he says, pricing a can at around $10 (about R75). Before the quake a gallon (four litres) of petrol fetched 200 gourdes.

"With the gradual reopening of petrol stations, few have to depend on street vendors, but even in official outlets the price has risen 20percent in a week.

"If we want to get work we have to pay more for gasoline," says taxi driver Leonard, who waited his turn at one of the reopened stations.

"At the same time we earn more if we pick up the foreigners who have come to the city."

Where water and soft drinks are sold prices have risen more than 100percent. A 250ml bag of water that once cost a gourde, now costs three. The cold drink that cost 10 gourdes, now costs 20.

"Phone cards, despite having the price labelled on them, also cost double. So too does cigarettes and alcohol. Surely at these prices they rob the goods from any old semi-destroyed supermarket and sell them," laments Corinne, wheeling a trolley full of the drinks.

Hoteliers - faced with a legion of journalists - are not above price-gouging either.

"On Tuesday the rooms cost $70, on Wednesday $200," says the manager of a Port-au-Prince hotel, who asks not to be named.

"We are not stealing. We offer a service when there are no services in the city. We try to give journalists, who are our only clients right now, water, electricity, the Internet. That has a price."

In a city where all restaurants and 90percent of the supermarkets are destroyed or closed, eating one proper meal a day is also a luxury that comes at a steep price. - Sapa-AFP

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