The National Catholic Reporter has more first hand harrowing details. Tom Roberts reports.
The Jan. 12 news that a 7.0 earthquake had hit Haiti near the capital city of Port au Prince held a special poignancy for me because I had just finished writing a story for NCR about an October trip I took to Haiti’s northern section and the Dominican Republic.
It would have been difficult to imagine anything getting worse in the poorest country in the hemisphere, where very little works, where 80 percent of the population lives in poverty, where a series of tropical storms battered portions of the country in 2008 and where chaos, violence and political instability are everyday fare. And in an instant things got much worse.
The trip in October was sponsored and planned by Catholic Relief Services, which has worked in Haiti for 55 years. It’s one of CRS’s largest operations and includes dozens of international staff and more than 200 Haitians. John Rivera, director of communications for CRS in Baltimore, said Jan. 12 that all of the staff in Haiti appeared to be safe.
Karel Zelenka, CRS country representative in Haiti who has had experience bringing relief to war zones and areas affected by natural disasters, send a communiqué calling the earthquake “a disaster of the century,” adding, “we should be prepared for thousands and thousands of dead and injured.”
Experts say that an earthquake of this magnitude would cause significant damage in most places. It is reasonable, then, to expect the effect to b e multiplied in a place like Haiti where there is negligible infrastructure, poor communications and where building standards are lax, if not non-existent.
“We have a terrible problem with communications – only incoming calls,” wrote Zelenka. “We tried to organize this morning and contact UN, OFDA and Caritas. We might be running out of supplies ourselves – water and food. … No organized rescue efforts yet– all done by individuals with bare hands. Damage incredible all around, but our offices seem fine. Some major buildings are gone – the hotel Montana, the National Palace etc.
All (American Airlines) flights canceled until this weekend. UN has only 4 helicopters, two were seen early this morning doing surveys, otherwise no movement of any rescue vehicles / people. Most in a shock. …On radio stations only wild music. People have been screaming and praying all over the place throughout the night. It is a disaster of the century, we should be prepared for thousands and thousands of dead and injured.”
Read more about it here.