As most people are becoming aware, the Caribbean island country of Haiti has suffering nearly complete devastation from a 7.0 earthquake centered in its capital of Port-au-Prince just a little over 24 hours ago. The images on the news are haunting; home, hospitals, schools, and even the presidential palace has collapsed. The devastation is of catastrophic proportions to Haiti’s already impoverished population. People are wandering the streets, homeless, disoriented and wounded. Thousands of people are still trapped under the rubble and the domestic Haitian aid-workers are both understaffed and lacking the equipment and expertise to effectively help save the victims. The international response to the crisis has begun. Within the last hour, 75 members of the Los Angeles Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue, along with 5 search canines and specialized recovery equipment boarded a U.S. Air Force plane at March Air Force Base and are now en route to Haiti to help with the rescue efforts. This mission to Haiti will be the first international mission for the elite LAFD Urban Search and Rescue unit, who specialize in locating and extracting victims trapped in collapsed structure. Domestically, this unit has previously helped in the rescue and recovery efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and at the World Trade Center in New York City after the terror attacks on 9/11. Within 8 hrs, the unit will be on the ground walking into a completely chaotic situation. Most of the infrastructure of the country has been damaged, roads are impassible and basic services such as water and electricity have collapsed almost entirely. They will also be dealing with a severe language barrier, since the primary languages spoken in Haiti are French and Creole. The LAFD Search and Rescue team has been trained to be logistically self sufficient for the first 72 hours and to function up to 10 days. Given the severity of the situation they are walking into, the team will need to rely on all of their mental and physical strength and stamina to carry out their mission successfully and return back here to Los Angeles safe. To say that the 75 members of the LAFD Urban Search and Rescue unit on their way to Haiti are brave is a gross understatement. I will be praying for their safe return along as for all of the Haitian victims of this terrible disaster. Godspeed to everyone.
If you would like to donate to the Haitian earthquake relief, below at some links to organizations assisting in the relief efforts:
The Red Cross
World Food Programme
Doctors Without Boarders
Copyright 2010 Romy Schneider. All rights reserved.