Haiti: thousands feared dead in massive earthquake

News and Press Release
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On 12 January, a major earthquake shock Haiti, killing possibly thousands of people leaving the poor Caribbean nation appealing for international help. The earthquake, 7.0 on the Richter scale, is powerful to hit Haiti in more than 200 years.

Local and international media, present in the capital, Port-au-Prince, have broadcast scenes of chaos on the streets with people sobbing and appearing dazed amid the rubble.

At the moment, telephone lines in the country are all down. However, the Jesuit Refugee Service and other Jesuit organisations in the neighbouring Dominican Republic have issued pleas for non-perishable food (particularly canned foods and juices) and medicines (cotton, analgesics plasters, antibiotics, soaps, sanitary towels). They have also appealed for financial resources to be sent which can be sent, care of JRS International, JRS Dominican Republic or JRS USA.

The earthquake's epicentre was only 16 km from Port-au-Prince, which has a population of about one million, and aftershocks as powerful as 5.9 rattled the city throughout the night and into the next day. Reports on casualties and damage were slow to get out of Haiti due to communication problems.

As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is ill-equipped to respond to such a disaster.

In September 2008 Haiti suffered massive destruction wrought by Tropical Storms Fay and Hanna and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The four consecutive storms left 800,000 Haitians in need of humanitarian assistance, and left many of Haiti's 8.5 million citizens homeless - without food, water, shelter, or healthcare - and compounded the food shortage which came to light during the food riots in April 2008. The breadbasket region of Haiti was flooded by storm waters, destroying an estimated $180 million in crops.

JRS provides humanitarian assistance to Haitian refugees and migrants dwelling along the Haitian border with the Dominican Republic. Our field office in Ouanaminthe Haiti has seen the effects of the recent string of natural disasters.

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