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Island nation somberly marks fourth anniversary of earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people

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Digital writers

Sunday, January 12, 2014, 6:25 PM -

Haitians paused Sunday to remember the tens of thousands of people who died in a catastrophic earthquake four years ago, holding sombre low-key commemorations on a national day of reflection.

President Michel Martelly and first lady Sophia Martelly placed a bouquet of white flowers at a potter's field north of the capital of Port-au-Prince that is being turned into an official memorial for those killed.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck outside Haiti's capital on January 12, 2010, and thousands of buildings toppled in Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities. Officials say more than 300,000 died, but no one knows for certain how many people lost their lives.

An estimated 1.5 million people were left living in gloomy tent camps that became symbols of the devastation and desperation heaped upon this already deeply poor nation. The number of displaced people has since fallen to 146,000 in a decline attributed to a combination of voluntary departures, rental subsidies and violent evictions.

Among those that died were 102 peacekeepers, making it the worst loss of life in UN history. 

A memorial service was held on Friday at the Headquarters of United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to commemorate the anniversary. 

"We were all left on the street. We lost our houses; we were suffering but could not get any care," said the National Field Staff Union representative, Mardochée Thales at Friday's memorial service. "The worst was we had no way to communicate and to know if others were okay. We were crying for our mothers, fathers, children, our friends, our families, among others." 

On behalf of the UN family, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti paid tribute to the efforts of all peacekeepers both national and international in the reconstruction of Haiti. 

The ceremonies were concluded by the laying of wreaths in memory of the peacekeepers that perished during the January 12 earthquake. 

With files from The Associated Press

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