Emergency and rescue services are hampered by crumbled infrastructure. The Red Cross reported that there was no organized response following the earthquake, and survivours were left to fend for themselves.
Fundraising efforts are under way from around the world. The Canadian government will match private donations, up to $50,000,000. The DART has already been sent to help provide clean water, food, fuel, and medical supplies.
The local Red Cross in Chatham is calling for donations of money only at this time. They are asking that donations be brought to their office at 240 Grand Avenue West, Suite 102. The Red Cross is not currently in need of any volunteers or other items.
It's chaos, I'm telling you...it's real chaos. We are really in a disaster area. - Jean-Robert Gaillard, HH2JR
According to Jean-Robert Gaillard, HH2JR, "It's bad, it literally is bad. We don't know how many people are dead. We do not know what to expect. It's chaos, I'm telling you...it's real chaos. We are really in a disaster area. It's really a war zone. Many, many buildings in the downtown area are stripped from the ground with many people buried underneath them. You name it, it's bad."
Gaillard went on to state that he was okay, but there were dead bodies all over the place.
Communication efforts are being handled by IOTA IARU Region 2 Area C Emergency Coordinator, Arnie Coro, CO2KK, working out of Cuba. The Salvation Army is accepting health and welfare traffic requests on its web site, and they expect to have contact with amateur radio operators in Haiti sometime today.
According to Radio Amateurs of Canada, a group of eight amateurs coming from the Dominican Republic to help with communications made it close to their Embassy in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, but were ambushed by gunfire. One convoy member was killed, and several wounded. The remaining members had to retreat and are now safe back in the Dominican Republic. RAC has recruited 20 bilingual hams on behalf of the Salvation Army for service in Haiti when required.
|Orphan children in Haiti like these girls photographed by Garth Wright on his 2008 volunteer mission are among the many earthquake casualties. This orphanage was damaged, and their school destroyed, but nobody is reported to be hurt.|
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) plans to deploy 40 satellite terminals and 60 broadband internet links to re-establish basic communications. The ITU will also set up a complete cellular system to enable reliable communications in the disaster area.
As the window for rescuing survivours closes, with organizers completely overwhelmed, the operation is expected to change to that of recovery over the weekend. Many teams are on standby, but simply cannot get into the city where they are needed, and there is a shortage of heavy equipment to lift the remains of concrete buildings to rescue those trapped inside.
Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere. They will need help from governments around the world to rebuild the capital city.
Local assistance is already flowing to Haiti. Jeff Bultje, whose cousin runs an orphanage in Haiti, was planning to travel there with sports supplies, but quickly changed the purpose of his mission following the disaster. Individuals and businesses rallied together to provide tents, medical supplies, and anything else he could take with him.
At least 4 girls have been found dead at an orphanage founded by Windsor resident Frank Chauvin, with 67 survivours accounted for, and some still missing.
|Garth Wright is shown here in Haiti in 2008 with a deaf-mute boy who followed him around wanting to help paint. Wright is anxiously awaiting news about the people he assisted there.|
Wright has heard no word on the status of the places he visited, including the Grace Medical Centre in Port-au-Prince. Even before the disaster, he observed parts of the capital city where people were so poor he called it, "a hell on earth." Civil unrest always lurks just beneath the surface.
On January 18, Wright reports that the school he helped build has been destroyed in the earthquake, and the church is damaged. Nobody was hurt or killed in the collapse. Just moments before the quake, some 500 students had been dismissed for the day, but he's not sure how the students made out at their homes. The Grace Medical Centre was damaged, but no casualties were reported.
While he was in Haiti, rioting broke out over food shortages, and Wright needed a UN escort to get out of the country, amidst warnings from the embassy for Canadians to stay indoors. If people get angry or desperate in the earthquake aftermath, there is the potential for control to be lost.
At the age of 78, Wright has not ruled out a return trip to Haiti later this year to help with the cleanup, much to the protest of his family. He is optimistic that Haiti will be rebuilt into something better with the world's help.
Many local groups and churches are organizing relief efforts to assist the people of Haiti. People wishing to donate may contact any of the recognized agencies handling the assistance for more information. Trinity United Church in Wallaceburg will be accepting special donations this Sunday, to be forwarded to the United Church Haiti Earthquake fund.
The United Church is a member of ACT Alliance, a network of churches and aid agencies that is already coordinating relief efforts from its Geneva headquarters.