Monday, January 18, 2010
The town of Leogane is at the epicentre of Haiti’s disastrous earthquake – with up to 30,000 dead and almost all its buildings flattened.
A 40-strong British search and rescue team was the first to reach it yesterday – and the Mirror was with them.
Twelve miles west of capital Port-au-Prince, it used to have a population of 100,000 but now its centre is just a waste land with fallen twisted power cables threaded through rubble like spiders’ webs.
Two mass graves line the main road, a few yellowed bodies thrown in to start a third. Nearby, huddles of people beg for help. Armed men stand defiantly to defend a health clinic-turned-shelter against all comers.
This area had received no aid since last Tuesday’s cataclysm and the scene has been described as apocalyptic.
David Orr, of the UN World Food Programme, said: “It’s the very epicentre of the quake, and many, many thousands are dead. Nearly every house was destroyed. The military talk about 20,000 to 30,000 dead.”
People have fled to surrounding sugar cane fields or mangrove swamps to get away from the destruction. Tens of thousands are living in the open in church compounds, school playgrounds and market places.
Jean Ky Louis, a shop worker, said: “We have seen no rescues here, no help at all. People are dying of starvation, even the survivors. We have nothing, we need help. We welcome the British with open arms. We hoped they would come.”
The team used helicopters to assess damage before splitting into groups to search for survivors. They would work through the night and co-ordinator Sean Moore, from West Midlands Fire Service, said: “It’s our last chance to pull anyone out alive.”
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Hundreds of thousands of people may have been killed in Haiti by the severe earthquake which struck the impoverished country's capital.
By Tom Leonard
Published: 8:16PM GMT 13 Jan 2010
Previous of ImagesNext Most radio and television stations stopped functioning, and the airwaves were only punctuated by a few rare radio appeals for help Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A man being helped following a powerful 7.0 quake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010 Photo: AFP/Getty
A young girl cries after Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince is hit by a powerful earthquake Photo: PHOTOSHOT
Haiti's presidential palace before (top) and after the earthquake Photo: AFP/GETTY
A major international relief effort was launched yesterday to hurry rescuers and suppliers to the Caribbean country as the streets of Port-au-Prince were left strewn with corpses and shattered buildings.
Haiti Earthquake updates
Little escaped the devastation wrought by the grade 7.0-magnitude quake that struck the area in the south of Haiti on Tuesday afternoon.
Haiti earthquake: global relief effort launched
Haiti earthquake coverage in full
Huge aid effort launched
Bodies piled in the streets of devastated capital
Haiti earthquake latest
Haiti earthquake: families search for loved ones Hospitals and schools collapsed and were reportedly full of dead while 200 foreigners were missing from the city's expensive Hotel Montana.
Up to 200 United Nations staff in the city were unaccounted for last night including the civilian head of mission, Hedi Annabi of Tunisia, after its headquarters was flattened.
Monsignor Serge Miot, the city's Catholic archbishop, was a confirmed casualty, his body pulled from the rubble of his offices while his vicar general, Charles Benoit, was missing.
The presidential palace, Haiti's grandest building, was substantially destroyed and its incumbent, Rene Preval, described the scene in his capital as "unimaginable".
He said he had been stepping over the bodies of the dead and hearing the cries of the trapped underneath his country's collapsed parliament building.
His prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, said the government believed the death toll in the city of two million people was "well over 100,000" while Youri Latortue, a senior senator, said it could be 500,000.
Both admitted they had no way of knowing but aid workers on the scene reported widespread destruction and suffering as severely injured people lay in the streets, unable to get medical assistance.
Haiti, the poorest country by far in the western hemisphere, was already struggling to recover from a series of severe hurricanes and flooding in 2008.
The country sits on a major fault line and scientists have warned for years that it was likely to be hit by a major earthquake.
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Haiti earthquake aftermath leaves N.J. churches, families waiting for word from loved ones
By Star-Ledger Staff
January 13, 2010, 12:01PM
New Jersey residents are frantically trying to contact loved ones and friends from Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in the country that may have left thousands dead.
Communications with the devastated country have been limited, leaving church members, relatives, and others to rely on news reports, scrambled voice mails, and, for some, prayer.
AP Photo/Medecins Sans Frontieres, Stefano ZanniniThis photo provided by Medecins Sans Frontieres shows wounded people gathered at the office of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Port-au-Prince, Haiti today. Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital today after the strongest earthquake hit the poor Caribbean nation in more than 200 years crushed thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters."It’s impossible to get through," said Georgette Delinois, president of the Haitian Solidarity Network of the Northeast. "I have cousins throughout the country, my brother-in-law, my uncle who’s nearly 100 years old. It’s just heart-wrenching not to know."
Roughly 32,000 Haitians live in New Jersey, the fourth-largest concentration in the country, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
Delinois, a Teaneck resident who emigrated to the United States in the 1970s, said a brief e-mail from a volunteer in Port-au-Prince was her only contact with a homeland. It described an apocalyptic scene: houses reduced to rubble and bloodied survivors filling a soccer field in search for medical attention.
The earthquake reportedly devastated the country’s capital, a teeming city of nearly 3 million people that struggled in recent years with rampant crime and poverty. Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital today after the powerful earthquake crushed thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters. Untold numbers were still trapped.
Staff at a Lawrenceville church struggled to contact a group of volunteers traveling in Haiti when the earthquake struck Tuesday afternoon.
The volunteers, part of a mission from the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, should have been in Thoman, a mountain town 50 miles south of Port-au-Prince, according to an update on the church’s website.
The church, which has not been able to reach the group, is working with the U.S. State Department, the update said.
Haiti President Rene Preval said he believes thousands of people were dead from Tuesday afternoon's magnitude-7.0 quake. People pulled bodies from collapsed homes, covering them with sheets by the side of the road. Passers-by lifted the sheets to see if loved ones were underneath. Outside a crumbled building, the bodies of five children and three adults lay in a pile.
President Barack Obama today promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort to help the people of Haiti overcome a "cruel and incomprehensible" tragedy, the ruinous earthquake that ravaged the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The president, who has been involved in ensuring a quick response since Tuesday night, said in a statement from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room that one of the government's top priorities is to quickly locate U.S. embassy employees and their families, as well as all other American citizens living and working in Haiti.
Jersey City resident Dieudonne Bazile came home today to a static-filled voice message, but it was enough to give her hope that a family member in Haiti was alive and was trying to reach her.
"There was only noise. I could not detect a voice. It has to be someone from Haiti," she said from her Jersey City home. "I can’t tell you if it’s a woman or a man."
Bazile moved to New Jersey from Haiti in 1969 and raised her family here but her brother remains in Haiti along with nieces, nephews and "tons of cousins," she said.
She has not heard from any family members and said her only source of info had been news reports, which first came in Tuesday night.
"I have Haitian radio and we heard that there was a catastrophe, but not to panic."
She said what information she had heard was troubling .
"I know where my brother works, that building is gone and that gives me a lot of stress," she said but added that she remains hopeful. "Its going to take a long time to recover but there are many countries that are helping Haiti."
Aside from a family members in Haiti, Bazile said there is a strong community of Haitians in the U.S. that she can rely on for help and information.
"Other family members are calling me and if anybody hears anything they will tell me," she said.
Kay Coll, another board member of the Haiti Solidary Network, spent three years in the city last decade. She recalled its residents’ resilience in face of the tough conditions.
"I loved Haiti, seeing the people out and about, trying to carry so much on their heads on mountain roads," Coll recalled. "The people were always so cheerful. There was such beauty there."
Termain Mesidort, senior pastor at the Church of God of Prophecy, has been unsuccessful in locating his two sisters and four brothers since disaster struck the island nation on Tuesday. He said while the earthquake was a tragedy, the greater crime was the total incompetence of the Haitian government.
"In Haiti we don’t have a government that works at all," he said today from his church office. "The government that we have in Haiti -- they’re not concerned about life."
Citing shoddy construction and poor infrastructure, Mesidort said the situation in his country was "was already a catastrophe before this happened," but a disaster like this could be devastating to the impoverished country.
"We don't have good hospitals, we don’t have a power plant," he said adding that even under normal conditions, "If you don't have a generator you don't have light."
Mesidort said that despite enormous aid from the U.S. government, corruption in Haiti continually prevents resources from reaching the people.
"The U.S. is spending a lot of money in Haiti, but what have you seen? When you go to Haiti you see disaster," he said. "You can have president in Haiti for five years and after five years he will become the richest guy in the country."
Mesidort said that the Haitian community in Asbury Park -- which he estimates is roughly 7,000 people -- is trying to organize aid to the country, but communication has been impossible in the past two days. People interested in contributing to the aid effort can call the church at (732) 774-1409.
President Obama vows 'full support' to people of Haiti to recover from earthquake
More than a dozen Warren County residents were on a mercy mission to Haiti when the earthquake occurred.
Frank Fowler, senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, left with a group of 15 men and women Saturday on the church’s annual journey to bring medical supplies and other personal health items to Grace’s Children Hospital in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, his wife Karen, said.
The group was scheduled to be in Bon Repos, a city roughly 20 miles northeast of the capital, when the earthquake hit, said Fowler, who said she has not spoken to her husband since Saturday.
Fowler, who opened the Hackettstown church’s sanctuary for prayer Tuesday night, said all she can do is wait and pray for her husband and the others.
"We put our faith in God," she said. "We trust that He will be there, and He will guide us through this."
There are an estimated 40,000-45,000 Americans living in Haiti, but exact numbers are difficult to gauge because people come and go. All but one American employed by the embassy have been accounted for, State Department officials said.
The Haitian-born Wyclef Jean, who grew up near East Orange, called the earthquake a "natural disaster of unprecedented proportion," and called on the international community to mount a massive relief effort.
His nonprofit, Yele Haiti, has already started to coordinate relief efforts. Those interested in giving can text "Yele" to 501501, which automatically donates $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund (the charge appears on your cell phone bill) or visit www.yele.org.
Obama encouraged Americans who want to help to go to www.whitehouse.gov to find options for contributing to the aid effort. The international Red Cross said a third of Haiti's 9 million people may need emergency aid and that it would take a day or two for a clear picture of the damage to emerge.
He urged Americans trying to locate family members to contact the State Department at (888) 407-4747.
By David Giambusso and Rohan Mascarenhas
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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