PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The non-profit aid group founded by Hollywood star Sean Penn in the aftermath of Haiti's deadly 2010 earthquake will oversee demolition of the wrecked National Palace, the Haitian government said Tuesday.
Government spokesman Lucien Jura told The Associated Press that Penn's J/P HRO group will begin the demolition in the next 10 days. The group is not charging for the work, which is expected to take about two months, Jura said in an email.
"Amb. Penn mentioned that his organization (J/P HRO) could provide the engineers and equipment to do the demolition at no cost to the government," Jura wrote in an email, referring to the position that Penn holds as ambassador-at-large for Haiti.
The earthquake toppled hundreds of buildings in the capital of Port-au-Prince and other cities to the south. The National Palace was among them, its white dome and the rest of the structure slowly falling into itself.
The collapse forced government officials to work from a tiny police station near the international airport after the earthquake, co-ordinating the arrival of aid. Authorities now conduct day-to-day operations from a cluster of pre-fabricated buildings on the grounds of the National Palace.
The crumbled National Palace has come to symbolize the level of devastation caused by the quake as well as government inertia.
"The demolition should take a couple of months to complete as it is a surgical project and we are trying to salvage pieces of the Palace as it is a symbol of Haiti's history," Jura wrote. "For this reason the work needs to be performed by heavy machines and not using explosives — which takes longer."
He said officials had not decided on how to replace the government building, which has had to be rebuilt before.
While still under construction, the Beaux Arts structure was burned by a mob that assassinated Haiti's president, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. It was completed during the 1915-34 occupation by U.S. Marines that followed his death.