Ireland responds to Haiti devastation
Ireland responds to Haiti devastation

Irish relief agencies have joined international appeals for donations to help victims of the Haiti earthquake as the country grapples with shocking scenes and a potential six figure death toll.

“It’s chaos,” UN humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said. “It’s a logistical nightmare.”

At the airport a lack of equipment meant it took six hours to unload the first plane in, a hint of possible bottlenecks ahead as a global response brought a stream of relief flights.

Amid the chaos the death toll was still unclear although US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was in the “tens of thousands”.

In the streets of the capital survivors set up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food scavenged from the rubble.

Bodies lay scattered, often covered by a white cloth. Some people dragged the dust-covered dead along the roads, trying to reach a hospital where they might leave them.

Concern said it had received donations of almost 200,000 euro within the first 24 hours. “The Irish public is once again showing their great sense of empathy in these situations, as they did for the Pakistan earthquake and the Asian tsunami, and we offer a huge thank you to them,” Concern’s CEO Tom Arnold said.

The charity said 29 of its staff remain unaccounted for in the devastated region.

“While we have 29 staff so far unaccounted for, some of the staff we have there have lost relatives and family members. Despite this, they are rallying to help where they can but are at full stretch trying to cope with this catastrophe,” Mr Arnold added.

The Irish Red Cross announced today it is sending an initial 25,000 euro in aid to the country from its emergency relief fund.

The society also made an emergency appeal for donations yesterday, calling on the public to give what they can to help those most vulnerable.

Noel Wardick, head of the international department of the Irish Red Cross said the funds “will go directly towards assisting those with the greatest needs in the wake of this disaster, those who have been injured and who have lost their homes and loved ones”.

Trocaire says it has committed an initial 200,000 euro to the emergency and through its partner Caritas Haiti has provided first aid, tents and blankets to survivors of the earthquake.

Emergency programme manager Maurice McQuillan said: “Given Haiti’s vulnerability to hurricanes, Caritas Haiti are highly skilled in the provision of emergency shelter, food, healthcare, and clean water. Through them, Trocaire will be providing desperately needed aid.”

At least 14 disaster experts from Plan Ireland will arrive in the country later today to help the team currently on the ground.

The charity which works with 42,000 children in Haiti said it has already released more than half a million euro of emergency funds to help deal with the immediate aftermath. The agency also said it has received reports that while all its personnel are safe they do not know the status of their families yet.

Plan’s Haiti Director Rezene Tesfamariam said the devastation was on an “unimaginable” scale.

“I’ve worked for Plan for 27 years and have seen all kinds of tragedies. I’ve seen refugees fighting for their lives and floods destroy communities but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has 800 people in Haiti, said it had about six Irish people on a shortlist to fly out and support teams already there.

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