Earthquake

Yesterday at 4.53pm local Haitian time (GMT-5) an extremely tough earthquake has occurred in Haiti. The Epicentre was located some 15km South West from the capital Port-au-Prince, which has been touched in full strength.
In the Centre province, where I am still located, we still felt some strong waves on the ground. I was on my way home from work. Together with my colleague Saidou from German Development Service (DED) we had stopped to see a cock fight (what a bitter irony). All the people were quite trembled and anxious when the earth started moving under our feet. Albeit we rapidly realized that the quake did not really hit our zone and went home later. Straight after the quake, all mobile communication networks totally broke down. Thus we were not able to communicate with ou colleagues in Port-au-Prince. Same applied for the few local radio netwoks that managed to continue broadcasting. Bit by bit they managed though to get some information. One radio journalist was able to establish contact with his sister in the US. There around 7.00pm all major news channels slowly began to coomunicate that a major catastrophy had happened around Port-au-Prince and the guy asked his audience for any additional information concerning the situation in the capital. As the radios continued to provide few informations except some rumours about lots of houses having crashed, Saidou and myself decided to go back to the office – in the hope that we would be able to access internet there.
We were lucky since the FAES/DED bureau in Hinche is connected to an satellite internet network and thus we were able to see the news of the major international news stations. Unfortunately the situation in Port-au-Prince was this chaotic that only the Reuters guy based there had given some real informations on what had happened – and any channel was reproducing that information. Later in the evening, around 10pm one of the local radios had succeeded in establishing contact to one of the capitals radio stations. We got some new information, telling us that government authorities had seriously been touched, too. People were called to stay outside during the night.
Later this channel was blocked again and we had no more news during the night. I went to sleep and was thankful to have some hours of relaxing, though several smaller quakes still occurred during the night. This morning we went to the bureau quite early. All colleagues from our project partner FAES had left around 6am to go to Port-au-Prince to look after their families and houses there. By different news stations in the internet we could get an impression of the whole disastre going on some 100km away from our place. I realized that things are really serious (since last night we could not draw a real picture of the events taking place) as even huge buildings had totally collapsed. For example, the presidential palace is ruined and even the headquarters of MINUSTAH (the Haitian UN peacekeeping mission) was destroyed, probably burying the missions head from Tunisia and several other high-ranking UN officials. I mention those two critical institutions in the same breath than lots of Haitian ministries, police departments and especially hospitals because I think, that the fact those had been affected so much by the quake, might sharply influence the coordination of rescue and relif measures.
Up to now there is still no informations about the number of corpses, collapsed buildings and people stuck in the ruins. I am deeply concerned about the situation in the capitals numerous shantytowns like Cite Soleil – as there the baracks and houses are really sensible and prone to destructions, it might be possible that riots are started by the people from those areas – hampering all the relief actors. Further electricity and mobile communication remains out of function, medical assistance is not yet able to cope with all the need on the streets and the risk of diseases may increase if that lack of relief will not be resolved in the next hours.
We have been told to stay in Hinche until further notice since the risk of pillages and similar things cannot be calculated up to this moment and the coordination of relief organizations has still not really begun due to infrastructure and communication constraints. In case there will be the need I might be ready to go to Port-au-Prince within the next days. Of course I am not a doctor, neither an experienced disastre relief worker but my language skills could be of worth for some coordination and organization work. Anyways I will not start uncoordinated journeys to that zone, rather I will be waiting here in Hinche how things are further developing and remain waiting in the wings. This afternoon our remaining group here – that is safe for the moment – will go for some “hoardings” of rice, noodles and other stuff, because the only threat we actualy face in this area is that food provision from the capital is going to collapse due to the demand there.
As soon as I have more to tell or anything changes here I will try to communicate it by this site or some facebook or twitter updates. But, please do not worry about my person…

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