PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Workers have removed about half of the twisted piles of concrete, steel and other debris that have clogged Haiti's capital and surrounding areas since its huge earthquake in January 2010, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
Jessica Faieta, the U.N. Development Program's senior country director for Haiti, gave the official update on rubble removal in a UNDP statement that called it "a colossal task" and "epic-scale clean-up."
Haiti still faces a massive reconstruction effort following the January 12, 2010 quake, which killed more than 300,000 people and caused massive damage in the poorest country in the Americas.
Faieta told Reuters the rubble removal effort, much of it done by hand on hillsides and other densely populated areas of the capital Port-au-Prince that were inaccessible to heavy machinery, marked "a major step forward" for Haiti.
About half of the debris removal has been done by the U.N. and its foreign aid partners and the remainder was the work of community residents and private enterprise, she said.
"It has been slow but I think it's an important threshold to be able to say, close to the second year of the earthquake, that more than half of the debris has already been removed through an enormous effort partially led by UNDP," Faieta said in a telephone interview.
The U.N. estimates that 80,000 buildings in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas collapsed after the quake, leaving 10 million cubic meters of rubble or enough to fill 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Faieta said that was about 10 times the debris left by the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Center.
"The removal of the debris is now facilitating the return of the displaced population to the neighborhoods, the rehabilitation of the neighborhoods and the economic reactivation of neighborhoods," Faieta said.
(Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)