It has now been almost 1½ weeks since the earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday the 12th January. I can’t even imagine how even more terrible life in the already very poor country has become for those who survived but have lost everything; family members, friends and their homes.
The disaster has felt especially close to us for a number of reasons;
– Hispaniola, the island of Haiti and the Dominican Republic is the closest island to Puerto Rico in the west.
– We didn’t feel this earthquake, but I felt an earthquake my second week in Puerto Rico in November 2007. The epicentre was close to Martinique and it did measure a magnitude of 7.3, as strong as the Haitian earthquake. We were woken up by another one in October 2008 (magnitude 6.1), where the epicentre was just 155 km from San Juan*.
However, the most pertinent reason is that last Monday (11th), when we were waiting for US Immigration at Miami airport, a plane from Haiti must have arrived at around the same time. We saw several Haitians being ordered to queue for a second immigration interview / interrogation, and I was hoping for their sake that they would be granted entry to the US. Ever since I heard of the earthquake, I have been thinking about these persons I saw at the airport, and wondering if it was decided to send them back to Haiti and if they were sent before the disaster struck. If not, they must be frantically trying to get in touch with their families and friends back home on the island.
Last Thursday we went shopping – our kitchen was quite empty after 2½ weeks in Europe, and we also wanted to buy provisions for Haiti. O’s company was collecting food, water, diapers etc to be sent to Haiti. They were not the only ones – in almost every shop, bank and supermarket here in Puerto Rico have I seen signs that they are collecting provisions and / or money. I think it’s great that for example the pharmacy / convenient store offers the option to round up your purchase with x amount of money to be donated to the Red Cross Haiti relief. Many people probably want to help but never get around to actually log onto one of the web-sites to donate the money, but if it can be done at the same time as shopping for yourself – a “two birds solution”!
So, back to what we bought – first of all, I have to say that it felt a little weird to buy actual food, instead of just donating money. However since the harbour in Port-au-Prince seems to have opened today, I hope that all the donated food from Puerto Rico can reach the area fairly quickly by boat. We stocked up on beans, chickpeas, tuna, small sausages etc in cans, anything that could be eaten without cooking and was nutritious, and I could see that most shoppers around us were doing the same thing. I was a little worried about how people will open the cans, and O said that the company had said that can-openers could be donated as well. In Wal-Mart we checked for can-openers but they were completely out, so I guess more people had had the same thought.
Here are some web-sites for donating money (from the US):
Puerto Rico sent their own team of rescue workers to Haiti, and their photos and stories can be found on Facebook (in Spanish) – just search for Rescatistas Puertorriqueños en Haiti.
PS I file this under my category for Challenges, which is usually something light and fun, but I challenge you to do something for Haiti!
*) The strongest earthquake measured in Puerto Rico struck in 1918, on the day exactly 90 years after the one which woke us up. The 1918 earthquake had a magnitude of 7.3, caused a tsunami and 118 people died.