Campus, International, News

Students struggle to contact families in Haiti after quake

The Haitian community at Boston University continues to face communication difficulties with family at home after a record 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti Tuesday afternoon, destroying much of the city and possibly leaving hundreds of thousands dead.

Haitian President Ren’eacute; Pr’eacute;val said in a statement that hospitals, prisons, parliament and other important municipal facilities have collapsed or been abandoned. Much of the infrastructure, including power, communication and transportation, has also been cut off, making it difficult for aid to reach victims.

Though no figure has been confirmed, the death toll is estimated around 100,000, with millions likely affected. United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti Chief H’eacute;di Annabi is among the confirmed dead, Pr’eacute;val said Wednesday.

The Haitian Cultural Association of Boston University, the Howard Thurman Center and the African Studies Center are all working to assist Haitian students at BU and have already organized fundraisers for Haiti, HCABU president Farrah Belizaire said.

‘Because the communication is still down, some people were not be able to get in touch with their families back in Haiti, but most people in our club have and their families are OK,’ she said.

The earthquake is the largest ever to hit the Caribbean in more than 200 years, and aftershocks of high magnitudes continue, making conditions unstable. Its epicenter was 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital city.

Katlyne Demosthene, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman who is also in the HCABU, has family in Massachusetts who used to reside in Haiti.

‘It’s hard to see and comfort our parents who still have friends and some family in Haiti,’ she said. ‘My mother and grandmother called me crying. They know they can’t do anything from here, they left everything, behind.’

She said she hopes the focus the earthquake has created will finally illuminate the changes that must take place in Haiti’s infrastructure, education and government.

‘For a long time Haitians had a hope for actual change,’ she said. ‘Unfortunately this disaster had to happen for people to acknowledge that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.’

Despite the help Haiti will receive, she said she fears the lasting effects of the earthquake’s damage.

‘With this disaster, the problems that already existed have been magnified,’ she said.

President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the United States would offer whatever aid possible to the stricken nation.

‘My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake,’ the statement said. ‘We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.’

Charity organizations, the United Nations and companies such as YouTube, which ‘ is collaborating with the American Red Cross, are already asking for donations to help relief the victims of the disaster.

On Friday at BU, there will be two fundraisers to support relief efforts, Belizaire said ‘- one at the George Sherman Union link at 11 a.m. and one at the HCABU’s general meeting at 7 p.m.

‘We spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what was most needed. In most cases it’s really monetary aid,’ Belizaire said. ‘The airport is still closed. Transporting items, clothing and canned goods, is going to be difficult at this time.’

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