Haitian Consul: Worst Catastrophe in 200 Years

Categories: News
Photo by Matthew Marek/American Red Cross
Young boy sits on the rubble after the devasting earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12.
Following Tuesday's 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, the Haitian Consulate in Miami has been overwhelmed with phone calls from locals seeking information, advice, and support.

But Consul General Ralph Latortue is as much in the dark as they are. 

He spoke with First Lady Elisabeth Delatour Preval twice Tuesday but has not been able to communicate with government officials since. Delatour informed him there are no governing agencies working and that President Rene Preval has named an emergency committee to temporarily perform government functions.

"I have not spoken with anyone in the government, or in Haiti actually, since last [Tuesday] night," said Latortue, whose consulate on Brickell Avenue services Haitians in the nation's number one Haitian mecca. "Communication is very difficult."

Latortue's short conversation with the first lady is the only communication Haitian officials in the United States have had with the crippled government, Ambassador Raymond Joseph confirmed to NPR Tuesday.  
CNN reported Wednesday that casualties might be in the neighborhood of 100,000, but Latortue said it is impossible to tabulate anything beyond a rough estimate. "We may have 3 million people affected by the earthquake," Latortue said. "It's a catastrophe of major proportions. There's no comparison to anything else in our history."

The last natural disaster that caused significant damage was a series of four hurricanes that swept through the country in late 2008. And Haiti hasn't yet recovered from that. "Haiti is a country with so many needs, even before the earthquake" he said. "The rebuilding is going to take years. The city of Gonaives is still being cleaned up."

For locals who want to help, Latortue said the consulate is asking for water, satellite phones, financial donations, and even warehouses where donations can be stored until the Haitian government is ready to receive them.

The consulate has also set up two hot lines to take questions and accept donations: 305-859-8210 and 305-859-8163. Local organizations accepting donations include the Haitian American Relief Committee, Catholic Charities, and the American Red Cross.

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