International aid agency Oxfam has dispatched additional emergency specialists to Haiti to bolster the agency’s response to the earthquake that struck the country on Tuesday.
The six-strong emergency team left the UK yesterday. They will join the 15 emergency specialists Oxfam already has on the ground in Haiti.
Cedric Perus, Oxfam’s humanitarian coordinator in Port-au-Prince, said:
“I have seen wounded people flooding into the hospitals and buildings of several storeys high that are now totally flat. Tens of thousands have probably died in the quake, but it will take time to get a full picture. Bodies may stay under the rubble for a long time because it is difficult to access some sites and heavy lifting equipment is in limited supply.
“There are bodies all over the city. People have nowhere to put them so they wrap them in sheets and cardboard in the hope that the authorities will pick them. People have also piled bodies in front of the city’s main hospitals.
“Oxfam’s teams have now started to assess the scale of the disaster across the different parts of Port-au-Prince as some have been more severely affected than others. The epicentre was near the slum of Carrefour, where people were living in flimsy shacks. There are reports that over 90 per cent of its buildings are in ruins.
“Our immediate priorities will be providing safe water and shelter material for the people who have lost their homes. Many people have lost their homes and were sleeping out in the open last night. There has been no rain yet, but there was rain earlier in the week and if it comes again it will make the situation much worse for all those made homeless by this quake. It is dangerous at night. Lootings were widespread and some markets were ransacked.”
Oxfam is preparing to send extra emergency supplies to Haiti. Materials that will be sent include plastic sheeting and equipment for water distribution, purification and storage.
Communication has been difficult since the 7.0 on the Richter scale quake struck 10 miles southwest of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, but the situation is undoubtedly grave. Homes, office buildings, roads, schools, hospitals and hotels have collapsed. Millions of people are affected.
Oxfam is appealing for support from the Australian public to help fund its emergency response. Donations can be made at www.oxfam.org.au or by phoning 1800 088 110.
For more information please contact: Kate Thwaites on +61 407 515 559