Haiti Reels in the Wake of 7.0 Quake listen01/13/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Authorities in Haiti fear the death toll of yesterday’s massive earthquake to be in the thousands, though they have yet to offer an official number. The magnitude 7.0 quake that struck 10 miles west of the Haitian capitol of Port-Au-Prince leveled hospitals, schools, a prison, and many other buildings.
President Barack Obama said today that his administration plans a relief effort that will be “swift, coordinated and aggressive.”
US officials have since said they’ll likely send 2,000 marines, as well as ships, helicopters and transport planes in the coming days. But Obama said that the effort must be international.
South Florida US Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said on MSNBC that Haiti – the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere – lacks the kind rescue infrastructure needed to deal with such a major catastrophe.
While the 9 million people who live in Haiti struggle in the quake’s aftermath, many of the hundreds of thousands of Haitian Americans living in Florida are dealing with their own hardships. Wasserman-Schultz said that the US should allow undocumented Haitian immigrants faced with deportation to stay put in the days following the disaster.
In the hours following the quake, Farah Juste, a Haitian-born activist living in Miami, told Dennis Bernstein, host of Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints, that she was distraught after a call to her wheelchair-bound mother was dropped. She said that many Haitians living in Florida are experiencing the same anguish, partly because they are well aware of the capitol’s many poorly constructed buildings.
Juste added that Port-Au-Prince was well beyond its population capacity.
Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, who also appeared on Flashpoints, said that post-colonial economic policies exercised in the country have made the population even more vulnerable.
Rescue teams from across the nation are headed to Haiti over the next few days, including a canine division from Tampa Fire Rescue and a US Coast Guard Unit that launched from Clearwater this morning.
US Citizens who are trying to locate loved ones in Haiti should call the State Department at 888-407-4747.
US Senator Bill Nelson also invites Haitian-Americans to call his office, where they can be assisted bu Creole-speaking staff. The toll-free number 1-888-671-4091.
Here is a list of organizations through which you can help victims of Tuesday's earthquake.
The Salvation Army or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY
Haiti native Wyclef Jean wants people to text "Yéle" to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yéle Haiti Earthquake Fund, or to visit yele.org
The American Red Cross or text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross's disaster relief fund.