Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

World comes to Haiti's rescue

Relief efforts hampered by country's poor roads, airport, seaport

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Doctors and search dogs, troops and rescue teams flew to this devastated land of dazed, dead and dying people Thursday, finding bottlenecks everywhere, beginning at a main airport short on jet fuel and ramp space and without a control tower.

The international Red Cross estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's cataclysmic earthquake, based on information from the Haitian Red Cross and government officials. Worries mounted, meanwhile, about food and water for the survivors.

"People have been almost fighting for water," aid worker Fevil Dubien said as he distributed water from a truck in a northern Port-au-Prince neighbourhood.

From Virginia, from China, a handful of rescue teams were able to get down to work, scouring the rubble for survivors. In one "small miracle," searchers pulled a security guard alive from beneath the collapsed concrete floors of the UN peacekeeping headquarters, where many others were entombed.

But the silence of the dead otherwise was overwhelming in a city where uncounted bodies littered the streets in the heat and dust-caked arms and legs reached, frozen and lifeless, from the ruins. Outside the General Hospital morgue, hundreds of collected corpses blanketed the parking lot, as the grief-stricken searched for loved ones. Brazilian UN peacekeepers, key to city security, were trying to organize mass burials. Patience already was wearing thin among the poorest who were waiting for aid, said David Wimhurst, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission.

"Unfortunately, they're slowly getting more angry and impatient, because when they see us moving -- and we're patrolling the streets, the military and the police are out patrolling the streets in order to maintain a calm situation, so that humanitarian aid can be delivered," he said.

More than 50 Canadians who somehow made their way to the Port-au-Prince airport despite the chaos and destruction boarded a military plane headed for Montreal by way of Florida on Thursday.

Many of them had little more than the clothes on their back. They were the second group of Canadian evacuees from the Caribbean country. At least five of them were injured but thought to be in stable condition.

Meanwhile, Canada began an aid-and-rescue campaign by air, sea and land, sending in tons of supplies.

A C-130 transport and a huge C-17 touched down in Port-au-Prince carrying a helicopter, emergency supplies and the first members of the military's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART.)

In Halifax, a pair of Canadian warships set sail for Haiti, loaded with everything from a helicopter to chainsaws, medical supplies, construction materials and water purification tablets.

The humanitarian effort kicked off amid the sobering news that at least four Canadians died in Tuesday's massive quake, four are missing -- and that more casualties are expected.

The Canadian dead are: Yvonne Martin, a retired nurse from Elmira, Ont.; Georges and Mireille Anglade, from Montreal. He was an academic and one of founders of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, while she was a longtime advocate for women's rights in Haiti; and Sgt. Mark Charles Gallagher, an RCMP media relations officer who had been in Haiti since July training and mentoring Haiti's police force.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama announced "one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history," starting with US$100 million in aid. The first of 800 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were to deploy to Haiti from North Carolina, to be followed by more than 2,000 Marines.

From Europe, Asia and the Americas, other governments, the UN and private aid groups were sending planeloads of high-energy biscuits and other food, tents, blankets, water-purification gear, heavy equipment for removing debris, helicopters and other transport, and teams of hundreds of search-and-rescue, medical and other specialists.

But the global helping hand was slowed by the poor roads, airport and seaport of a wretchedly poor nation. Some 60 aid flights had arrived by midday Thursday, but they then had to contend with the chokepoint of an overloaded Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport.

For the long-suffering people of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, shock and disbelief were giving way to despair.

"We need food. The people are suffering. My neighbours and friends are suffering," said Sylvain Angerlotte, 22. "We don't have money. We don't have nothing to eat. We need pure water."

The unimaginable scope of the catastrophe left many Haitians, a fervently religious people, in helpless tears and prayer.

Yael Talleyrand, a 16-year-old student in Jacmel, on Haiti's south coast, told The Associated Press of thousands of people made homeless by the quake and sleeping on an airfield runway, "crying, praying and I had never seen this in my entire life."

-- The Associated Press / The Canadian Press

 

How you can help:

 

Canadian Red Cross: www.redcross.ca/helpnow, or call toll free 1-800-418-1111 or visit any Red Cross office. Locally, donors can call the Winnipeg office at 1111 Portage Ave. at 1-866-685-4250. Cash donations can be dropped off at any of the city's 26 fire halls, made out to the Canadian Red Cross Haitian relief effort.

Mennonite Central Committee: Call 261-6381 or toll-free 1-888-622-6337 or visit mcc.org. By mail: MCC, 134 Plaza Dr., Winnipeg, R3T 5K9. Be sure to designate donations Haiti Earthquake.

Humanitarian Coalition (consists of CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec and Save the Children Canada): www.thehumanitariancoalition.ca

Plan Canada: https://plancanada.ca/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pidid

Salvation Army: www.salvationarmy.ca or call 1-800-725-2769. Bell Mobility customers can make $10 donations by texting the word "haiti" to 45678. Donations can be mailed to Army Territorial Headquarters, Canada and Bermuda, 2 Overlea Blvd., Toronto, ON M4H 1P4. Donations can also be dropped off at local Salvation Army units. Specify "Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund."

Doctors Without Borders: www.msf.ca

Unicef Canada: https://secure.unicef.ca/portal/SmartDefault.aspx?at0&CID

Jewish Federation of Winnipeg: Call 477-7428 or visit www.jewishwinnipeg.org. Mail or in person: C300-123 Doncaster St., Winnipeg, R3N 2B2

World Vision Canada: www.worldvision.ca/give-a-gift/Pages/EarthquakeinHaiti.aspx

GOD'S LITTLEST ANGELS CANADA: Box 984, Okotoks, AB, T1S 1B1.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has compiled a guide designed to help the public avoid scams: www.international.gc.ca/humanitarian-humanitaire/canadians_help-aide_canadien.aspx

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2010 A4

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