Port au Prince Devastated by Major Earthquake (1/12/2010)
Haiti was struck today by the largest earthquake in the region since 1770. Information is spotty but we do know the following: The General Hospital, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Palace (left), and many homes have collapsed. What we do not know is how many have been injured and how many have died. Power lines are down. Comms were also down but are slowly improving. The international airport is still intact. We heard from Matt and he is ok. If half of the Twitter reports are true, this has been a major catastrophe. We will post updates in the comments section, please do the same.
Casualties will likely be high. Homes in Port au Prince are not built to withstand earthquakes. They are made of concrete and are often constructed on steep hillsides. According to CNN, a local employee for the charity Food for the Poor reported seeing a five-story building collapse in Port-au-Prince. Another Food for the Poor employee said there were more houses destroyed than standing in Delmas Road, one of the largest thoroughfares in the city. "Within a minute of the quake ... soil, dust and smoke rose up over the city, a blanket that completely covered the city and obscured it for about 12 minutes until the atmospheric conditions dissipated the dust," Mike Godfrey (USAID) reported to CNN.
According to Haitian ambassador to Washington, Raymond Alcide Joseph, the country faces a major catastrophe. President Barack Obama said his thoughts and prayers were with the people of Haiti. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States would provide both military and civilian disaster assistance.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon today voiced concern for the people of Haiti as well as the United Nations staff there. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy said that contacts with MINUSTAH have been severely hampered as communications networks have been disrupted. UN facilities in Port au Prince have sustained serious damage and a large number of peacekeepers remained unaccounted for. MINUSTAH was set up in 2004 and currently has more than 9,000 military and police personnel and nearly 2,000 civilian staff.
Photos are available on yahoo and at the National Post website. Reuters also has video footage as does the Huffington Post. Daniel Morel is on the ground and twittering photos. There is also an Oxfam blog featuring content from aid workers and journalists. Matt has also taken photos.
The immediate needs are going to be emergency rescue, food, water, shelter, medical services for the injured, and psychosocial support. The Clinton Foundation has pledged to provide assistance. The Inter-American Development Bank said it would provide $200,000 in immediate emergency aid. The American Red Cross is also releasing $200,000 in emergency support. Save the Children, World Vision, CARE, Mercy Corps, Food for the Hungry, Catholic Relief Services, Americares, the Pan American Development Foundation, Medical Teams International, and Partners in Health have all announced they will respond.
A specialized rescue unit from the Los Angeles County Fire Department is preparing for deployment to Haiti. The 72-member heavy rescue task force received a request for help from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and is gathering at a staging area in Pomona. The team includes paramedics, search dogs, communication specialists and rescuers who are trained in combing through collapsed structures to find victims. The rescuers rely on sophisticated detection devices and equipment capable of shoring weakened structures and moving heavy chunks of rubble, officials said.
We are all worried about all friends and family in Haiti. The State Department has set up a toll-free phone number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti and it is 1-888-407-4747. It will be some time before telecommunications are fully functional.
To have this happen after so much progress is devastating. I dont have the words to say how heart breaking this is. Life is precarious - enjoy it when you can, make a difference when you are able, and do not take it for granted. If possible, please provide a cash contribution to an organization responding to the needs of survivors. We will post updates here as they become available. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected.