Soledad O’Brien Travels from One Disaster to Another

By kevin Comment

soledad_3-1.jpgLast week, Soledad O’Brien was in Haiti, working on a documentary about orphans. Between legs of her trip back to New York over the weekend, she got word that a severe earthquake had hit Chile.

She and her crew flew from Miami to Panama, to Lima, Peru to São Paulo, Brazil to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Bariloche. From there it was a 16-hour drive by car across the border to Concepción.

TVNewser spoke to O’Brien earlier today between live satellite hits for CNN from Chile. She told us that one of the main differences between the post-disaster environment in Haiti and the situation she is seeing in Chile is the looting.

“In Haiti, there was an expectation that after a week people would get angry and would start looting, but many were complacent waiting for assistance,” she says. “As we roll through the main part of town [in Chile], you can see looting that is really going on in the face of the soldiers.” She told us that nearby, shopkeepers had blocked off the street using tires and scrap metal to protect their businesses.

Nevertheless, she says she and her crew have felt very safe in Haiti and Chile. “We have such great access as press,” she added. “The only things I feel unsafe about are the buildings. The aftershocks are terrifying.”

With another major earthquake coming so close on the heals of the one in Haiti, we wondered if O’Brien was starting to feel like the newsmedia had moved on too quickly.

“I think when you do documentaries, your mind is not skipping from one piece to the next,” she said. The documentary she’s been shooting in Haiti has been in the works since 2007. “We’re not leaving the Haiti story at all,” she said. “CNN is not leaving. There are a lot of stories to it.”

“This one happened in a country where…construction is far superior to anything you saw in Haiti,” she said. “You hop on planes and cover both stories as best you can.”

Right now, she’s focused on capturing the relief effort as well as the looting situation. “There’s tension in the streets, which is a little strange,” she said, adding that many of the people she’d spoken to were angry because they felt they weren’t being protected.

As we concluded our conversation, O’Brien had to quickly end the call. We later found out that a rescue crew was pulling the body of an elderly woman out of a quickly collapsing building nearby.