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Haiti: Updates from outside Port-au-Prince

Categories: Caribbean, Haiti, Breaking News, Disaster, Humanitarian Response, Migration & Immigration

Six days after southern Haiti was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake [1], international attention continues to focus on the situation in the capital city, Port-au-Prince. But charity aid workers and others based in towns elsewhere in the earthquake zone continue to post information online about other communities, as well as appeals for help.

In Fond des Blancs, a village about 65 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Canadian Ellen in Haiti [2] works with the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation. She has been using her blog to share information on behalf of the hospital. On Saturday 16 January, she posted [3] a message from the director:

In Fond des Blancs, we have a functioning operating room, but need an orthopedic surgeon, supplies, gas (diesel and gasoline) and water as soon as possible. If anyone has contacts with the military, they can feel free to land by helicopter at a field within a ¼ mile of the hospital and deliver what is needed, so that we can start operating.

The following day, she reported [4]:

… we heard wailing and lamenting start from the Adventist church across the road.  A body had just been brought back from Port au Prince.  As we walked home, we passed the Catholic church, where a funeral was just ending.  There will be many funerals here in the coming days.

People are walking out of Port au Prince, and walking many miles to get to villages where their relatives will offer them shelter.  We are sending our trucks and ambulances in and picking people up who are heading to Fond des Blancs.

The news from Petit Goâve, on the coast west of Port-au-Prince, seems worse. Konbit Pou Ayiti posted a report [5], dated Sunday 17 January, from an aid worker on the ground:

Many buildings collapsed during the earthquake in Petit Goave; at first it appeared as though every brick building in town crumbled. The buildings still standing are very dangerous and we need engineers to come in and check the structures to see which are safe. We have not yet had any relief efforts from outside come to TiGwav, so the first priority is the urgent need for a medical team on the ground as soon as possible.

The report goes on to ask for tents and bedding, a forklift, and electricity generators.

In Jacmel, on the south coast, charity worker Gwen Mangine said [6] on 18 January that members of her organisation, Joy in Hope [7], together with staff from the Hands and Feet [8] orphanage, had “become airport administrators” at the town's small airstrip:

They are directing planes where they need to go, handling the flight manifests, checking passports, it's insane. INSANE. Why do you ask? Good question. Because there are flights coming in and there is NO ONE ELSE to do this. They mayor has turned over the airport to us….

Once the flights are done for the day we have to get all our sorted/inventoried items into the hands of the people that need them. And pack up our “mobile” command center– which I speak of VERY loosely because it includes an 800 lb generator.

Some hours later, via a newly set up Twitter account, @JoyInHope [9] reported [10]:

Unloading the 4th plane today in Jacmel, Haiti! Sending supplies to Christianville via helicopter. Crazy busy at the airport.

Mangine's colleague Leann Pye, who blogs at Pye's in Haiti, posted photos [11] of a relief plane being unloaded and supplies being delivered to doctors.

And students of the Jacmel Ciné Institute [12] continue to post video footage of earthquake recovery efforts, recorded using equipment salvaged from the ruined institute building. The latest video, “Les Handicaps” [13] by Vadim Janvier, shows an agitated family trying to secure proper burial for an earthquake victim, and scenes at the makeshift emergency treatment centre established in the grounds of Jacmel's ruined hospital.

With Canada's earthquake response team assuming responsibility for Jacmel, as reported [14] today by the CBC, there are hopes that relief operations in the town will now move more quickly. As @RescueJacmel [15] put it [16] on Twitter:

Joy in Hope and Hands and Feet work together with Canadian military in #Jacmel [17]. Supplies finally coming in!