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HAITI: Caribbean countries react to devastation in Haiti- Caribbean Daily News

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries were on Wednesday reacting to the trail of death and destruction caused by the powerful earthquake that rocked Haiti on Tuesday.

Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana both announced one million US dollars each in immediate relief to Port au Prince, while St. Lucia said it would provide assistance under the wider CARICOM initiative.

Jamaica has said that it will “respond immediately in whatever way it can”.

CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit was meeting with CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington to discuss the initial regional response to the earthquake that reduced buildings to rubble and caused widespread death and injury.

“While we are very encouraged by the many expressions of international support that are already pouring in to Haiti, CARICOM as a region also intends to play its part.

“In the coming days and weeks, as the true picture of the destruction is revealed, we will be in a better position to say more on the type of assistance needed and where our resources could best be put to use,” Skerrit said in a statement.

Montserrat, where the government of Chief Minister Reuben Meade is dealing with a volcano that roared to life since 1995, said the destruction in Haiti “makes our volcano seem like a baby.

“We within the Caribbean region must mobilise resources to ensure that we can make some structured support for Haiti.”
“I will be making a telephone call…to follow up with colleagues to see what is happening. Prime Minister Skerrit is the lead Prime Minister as it relates to being Chair for the time being, so therefore we are expecting him to take the lead…but I will definitely make contact.

“One of the things which we must all wait on is for there to be a structured response rather than everybody rushing in (and) creating more problems, wait and deal with the coordinating agencies and then when the way is clear we can deal with friends and relatives,” Meade said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 and was centered about 14 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Residents said there had been a number of aftershocks at between eight and 10 minute intervals.

The international community has pledged assistance to the hemisphere’s poorest nation and President Rene Preval has made an urgent appeal for his country, saying he had been stepping over dead bodies and hearing the cries of those trapped under the rubble of the National Parliament.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning, whose oil-rich government facilitates a regional fund for disadvantaged CARICOM countries, said that Port of Spain would be providing one million US dollars immediately and would also contribute to the CARICOM response.

Manning said the destruction caused by the earthquake brings back into focus the call made at the Summit of the Americas held here last April for a special development fund for Haiti.

“It makes it more relevant at this time,” Manning said noting that his foreign minister had been trying to make contact with other countries on the issue of providing aid to the French speaking Caribbean country.

Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo said he was “deeply saddened” and that the “haunting images of bodies, injured persons and ruined buildings struck a chord of compassion throughout our nation for the people of Haiti.

“The Government of Guyana have pledged US$1 million (GY$200 million) to bring some relief to the people of Haiti.” Jagdeo said, noting that as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti is now severely challenged to cope with this tragedy.

“Haiti needs all countries, including the small developing countries to come to its aid urgently,” he added.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding said that he has been in contact with President Preval and assured him “that all Jamaica is offering prayers that God’s mercy will take the Haitian people through this tragedy even as we begin to organise a practical response to their plight.

“Jamaica has always responded immediately in whatever way we can to natural disasters in Haiti and this time will be no exception. Already, the mobilization of relief supplies is underway. Contributions from the private sector as well as supplies from the Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPEM) will be sent to Haiti today.

“Our help will be a part of international co-ordinated efforts to move food and medical supplies into the country and also to assist Jamaican and CARICOM nationals to return home,” Golding said, adding that over the next few days, Jamaica will send members of the Defence Force “ to participate in reconstruction efforts that will enable basic infrastructure of electricity, water and telecommunications to function again”.

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Stephenson King said the specifics of his government’s response would be “spelt out soon following the receipt of the assessment report by CARICOM”.

“Government expects that the Trinidad and Tobago Petroleum Fund will be mobilised along with input from the wider CARICOM for a consolidated regional response to the earthquake disaster in Haiti.”

Caribbean American legislators were also expressing sadness at the events in Haiti.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Haiti, who are suffering from the catastrophic damage caused by this earthquake,” Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on Wednesday.

“I am greatly concerned about the extremely fragile infrastructure of this island nation,” added the representative for the 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, the largest district of Caribbean immigrants in the US.

Another congressional representative, Eliot Engel, who represents a significant number of Caribbean immigrants in the Bronx, New York, said he, too, was very saddened by the catastrophic events.

“This is the worst possible time for a natural disaster in Haiti, a country which is still recovering from the devastating storms of just over a year ago,” said Engel, who chairs the US House of Representative’s Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, urging President Obama to “do everything possible for the Haitian people.”

New York State Senator Kevin Parker, who represents the 21st Senatorial District in Brooklyn, which is predominantly Caribbean, said he was “profoundly saddened” by news of the devastating earthquake.

“My thoughts and prayers are extended to the many families in and around the 21st District who have relatives and loved ones in Haiti, as they struggle to cope with this terrible natural tragedy that has taken its toll on lives lost and property destroyed,” he told CMC.