After five days buried alive in Haiti UN worker recalls moment of

And yet the 48-year-old Danish national somehow survived this ordeal, dehydrated and sore but with little more than a bruise on his upper arm and a scratch on his right hand when a search team from the United States rescued him on 17 January.Three days after being rescued, Mr. Kristensen was back at work as a senior humanitarian officer coordinating the relief effort between the Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the outlying agencies.“If you see the devastation in Haiti at the moment, it is enormous. I cannot just evacuate. I feel physically sore after five days on a concrete slab but mentally I am strong enough to do it. And certainly at a time when the country needs so much assistance,” he told the UN News Centre, his sentence cut off by the roar of an aid plane landing in Port-au-Prince. “They land regularly now,” Mr. Kristensen continued. “This is still very much a crisis situation. I see that the relief effort is gearing up. It’s more organized and reaching more and more people.”The relief effort has kept Mr. Kristensen so active that while staff counselling in Port-au-Prince is available, he has not sought it. “I think I can handle it, but you never know. That will come to the test in a few weeks. Right now I’m busy. It keeps me occupied. Maybe when I’m not busy there will be a reaction. That’s what all the people tell me. Maybe it’s true. I don’t know.”Mr. Kristensen worked through the 2002 earthquake in Afghanistan, the 1999 quake in Turkey and one in Ecuador in 1987. He said he had been able to process the crisis and the changing environment but “nothing as traumatic as being buried alive for five days under dirt and not knowing if you’ll live.”At 4:53 p.m. on 12 January, Mr. Kristensen was in his office on the third-floor of the five-storey Christopher Hotel which housed the MINUSTAH headquarters. He was sitting at his desk reading documents for a meeting the next day. The earthquake started with a minor tremor, and then four seconds later the major quake hit.“I debated in a split second whether to run for the door or hide under the table. The door was closed and I thought that maybe it was too far and I would be caught under falling debris, so I hid under the table.”He said that a bookshelf fell towards the desk, miraculously preventing him and the desk from being crushed.“I was confined as if in a small coffin. Five feet in length. Maybe a foot tall. And a foot and a half wide. I could move a little to the side and bend my neck.”Mr. Kristensen said that during the aftershocks, he scrunched under the desk, hoping that the roof would not suddenly give in. When quiet, he used the light from his mobile phone to look around.“I looked for what could potentially have fallen down that I could use to inform people or make myself more comfortable. I thought if I banged, a search and rescue team would find me.”Among the items found were a jar of instant coffee and an envelope. Mr. Kristensen saved the coffee in the envelope and his urine in the jar.“It doesn’t taste or smell particularly well but it could have prolonged my survival by a couple of days.”Mr. Kristensen said that he willed himself to stay calm by not moving a lot and by focusing on attracting help. His greatest psychological challenge was keeping a hold on time.“You lose your perception. You don’t know if you slept five minutes or five hours. It is difficult to remain sane and calm when you don’t know the day and time.”Mr. Kristensen admits that he considered the possibility that he might not be found. “I wondered how long it takes to die and what a horrible way to die. If you have an accident, at least you die quickly. Here you have days and days and days on end. What a horrible end.” On Sunday around 6:30 in the morning, an oil leak shut off the hum of generators and Mr. Kristensen heard muffled voices some 12 feet above where he was buried.“I almost thought no, I’m too tired to bang and shout. I could feel that it was more of an effort, but I thought – you have to take every single chance. It doesn’t matter how many times it didn’t work. This could be the once chance and it would be really, really stupid if you don’t do it.”Six hours later, Mr. Kristensen saw the faces of his rescue team. [Watch video] “It was so amazing. I cannot explain it. It really was like I had received a second birthday,” he recalled, laughing. “I am eternally grateful and in awe of the search teams who drop everything at an hour’s notice and go to faraway places and put themselves in danger to save people.”Mr. Kristensen, who met with his rescuers on Friday, is one of 132 people rescued by international teams. He also described the support from friends and colleagues, and from people around the world whom he has never met.“The hugs and kisses and genuine happiness I have seen from people here on seeing me again, and on knowing I’m alive has been wonderful. It is so amazing the support and the comradeship. You feel part of a larger family. I am very, very appreciative and thankful for their support.” Mr. Kristensen acknowledged that he has a new opportunity in life, but he does not have plans to radically change.“I’m not going to put on a backpack and hike the Himalayas. For me, it’s a mental change. There are so many things you postpone because they are not a priority, especially when you are on mission. I like to travel. I like cultural things. I like to learn new things. Of course I will continue to work and perform the way that I do, but also to see more of my friends and family.” 25 January 2010For five days, Jens Kristensen felt like he was living in a coffin. Under the twisted mountain of rubble of the United Nations headquarters in Haiti, the aid worker was enclosed in a five-foot long space so dark that it made no difference if his eyes were open or closed. read more

Trade wars and protectionism threaten global shipping warns UN agency

“Escalating trade frictions may lead to a trade war that could derail recovery, reshape global maritime trade patterns and dampen the outlook,” the report’s authors say.Other factors driving uncertainty include the global energy transition, highlighted by slowing crude oil shipments from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).This has been partly offset by near double-digit growth in shipments of natural liquefied gas – to nearly 300 million tonnes – in 2017 – with Asia driving demand.  The warning from UNCTAD, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, follows a “healthy” four per cent increase in global seaborne commerce in 2017.“While the prospects for seaborne trade are positive, these are threatened by the outbreak of trade wars and increased inward-looking policies,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. “Escalating protectionism and tit-for-tat tariff battles will potentially disrupt the global trading system which underpins demand for maritime transport.”According to the Review of Maritime Transport 2018, 10.7 billion tonnes of goods were transported last year and nearly half were dry bulk commodities. These include iron ore bound for China, which is described as the “main factor” in recent global shipping growth.This positive trend is forecast to continue at a rate of 3.8 per cent by volume, until 2023, the UNCTAD report says.Escalating trade frictions may lead to a trade war that could derail recovery – UNCTADThis is above the 3.5 per cent average recorded between 2005 and 2017 and it is likely to be driven by the transport of dry bulk commodities at the expense of tanker transportation. The share of overall volumes being carried by tankers (oil and other fluids) has dropped from more than 50 per cent in 1970, to less than 33 per cent in 2017.Overshadowing this positive outlook are concerns about trade tensions between China and the United States – the world’s two largest economies – and to a lesser extent, uncertainty in commercial relations between Canada, Mexico, the US and the European Union.  UNCTAD/Jan HoffmannFreight ship off the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe. Among the report’s other findings, is the confirmation that developing countries – which supply most workers in the sector – continue to account for most seaborne trade, both in terms of imports and exports.In total, they accounted for around 60 per cent of total trade last year.By contrast, developed countries saw their share of goods unloaded and loaded, go down, with both representing around one-third of the total.One of the key drivers of change in seaborne trade has been restructuring by major shipping companies, which have seen “unabated” mergers and acquisitions.According to the report, by June this year, the top 10 shipping lines accounted for more than 70 per cent of all seaborne trade, while just three alliances control 93 per cent of capacity, on the three major East-West container routes.“Growing consolidation can reinforce market power, potentially leading to decreased supply and service quality, and higher prices,” the report notes.Some of these negative outcomes may already be in effect, it says, citing a decrease in the number of operators in several Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and structurally-weak developing countries. read more