An earthquake reported at 7.0 has hit the region surrounding the capital city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Hours after the initial quake, powerful aftershocks are still rumbling through the country. There are reports of catastrophic damage to most structures in the region, including the Presidential Palace and the United Nations Mission. The reports also include thousands of injuries and likely hundreds of fatalities.
Over 6000 Canadians live and work in Haiti. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti currently has 55 Canadians serving with them. As of Wednesday morning, most of the Canadians working with the UN have been accounted for. The Canadian Consular staff in Port au Prince have opened their grounds to all Canadians in Haiti who need assistance, despite the fact that the embassy itself was evacuated. The Consular staff have also begun the initial emergency response from Canada helping to assess what aid is needed, including the possible deployment of Canada's Disaster Asssistance Response Team (DART). This specialized military team can be deployed within 24 hours of the request, but they must wait until an invitation is given by either the Haitian Government or the United Nations. Once on the ground, DART is capable of offering initial assistance for 40 days.
People looking for information about Canadians in Haiti should go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Our Governor General Michaëlle Jean, who came to Canada in 1968 as a Haitian refugee, has expressed her concern and condolences through a statement released Tuesday night:
I am following, with great attention and concern, the emerging reports regarding the earthquake that struck Haiti with force, and which was felt elsewhere in the region.
This natural disaster has hit a country with an extremely fragile infrastructure, where many buildings are already unstable, and where living conditions are often very difficult. I fear for its people.
I would like all Haitians to know that they are not alone and that the people of Canada will respond to this emergency.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon have both expressed deep condolences on behalf of the Canadian people and are pledging support and aid to the people of Haiti.
While officials are currently assessing the damage and the possibility of Canadians injured, Canada stands ready to provide any necessary assistance to the people of Haiti during this time of need. Canadians are profoundly concerned about the impact of today's earthquake in Haiti. On behalf of all Canadians, I wish to extend my sincere sympathies to all affected by this disaster.
Twitter Facebook and Twitter exploded just after the earthquake hit, as people tried to relay information to loved ones. The traditional communications infrastructure was severely damaged in the earthquake, leaving only spotty service at best. The social networking sites were a godsend of information for family and friends trying to get news of their loved ones in Haiti.
Wyclef Jean (a musician and a friend of The Hour) is Haitian, but currently lives in New York. Since word of the disaster, Jean has expressed his concern for his family and friends in Haiti on Twitter, CNN and other outlets.
"We need the US military as soon as possible n haiti We need the 4 million Haitian that live out side of haiti to Act now, we need da world!"
Groups are starting to pop up on Facebook. Check out the Earthquake Haiti group for news, photos and information directly from the people of Haiti along with people from around the world sharing their condolences.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon asks that those who wish to help the people of Haiti, either go to the Foreign Affairs website for more information or donate to one of the many international charties working in Haiti. These include:
The Red Cross is already on the ground in Haiti:
Médecins Sans Frontières is already in Haiti and according to a press release on their website, their trauma centre has suffered serious damage. Regardless, they are continuing to help the people of Haiti:Red Cross response was immediate. Local volunteers continue to support evacuation activities and provide much needed shelter, clean water and medical support. The Canadian Red Cross has contributed $200,000 from its International Disaster Relief Fund and Canadian aid workers are on standby to be deployed to Haiti if needed.
Canadians are encouraged to support Red Cross relief efforts by making a financial donation to the Canadian Red Cross Haiti Earthquake fund. Donations can be made online at www.redcross.ca/donatenow , by calling toll free 1-800-418-1111 or at any Red Cross office.
World Vision has been in Haiti for over 30 years, helping thousands of Haitians to overcome poverty through access to education and improved access to clean drinking water and food. With this extensive history with the Haitian people they are already assessing the needs of the people and distributing emergency supplies.At the moment, MSF teams are trying to ensure the safety and continued care of patients admitted to Trinité hospital and to establish a capacity to treat new patients. At MSF’s Maternité Solidarité hospital, a 75-bed emergency obstetrics facility also in the capital, pregnant women, new mothers, and newborn children have been evacuated from the facility due to structural damage and as a precautionary measure. MSF also operates Martissant 25, a health centre in the Martissant slum and its immediate surroundings.
Oxfam Canada is asking for donations through the Humanitarian Coalition.
Do you have family and friends in Haiti? Have you heard from them? The Stroumboulopouli hopes that everyone is safe and sound. If you know of other organizations who are helping the people of Haiti, let us know. We'll help you get the word out.
Post by Mich and Barbara