Yarmouth residents 'heartsick' over Haiti

The Nova Scotians volunteering at an orphanage in earthquake-devastated Haiti are safe, but there is still plenty to worry about, says a Yarmouth man.

The Nova Scotians volunteering at an orphanage in earthquake-devastated Haiti are safe, but there is still plenty to worry about, says a Yarmouth man.

"I'm pretty upset about the Haitian people and what's going to happen to them over the next few days and months," Dickie MacDonald told CBC News, after hearing from his sister-in-law Karen Huxter, a missionary in the impoverished Caribbean country.

"The resources down there are very few and far between when things are good. So I can't imagine what it's going to be like now."

Huxter runs the Hands Across the Sea orphanage and school in Deschappelles, about 160 kilometres from the epicentre of the quake. There are 15 children in the orphanage and 250 students at the school.

The 7.0-magnitude tremblor struck at 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday — the most powerful quake to rock the country in more than 200 years.

MacDonald reached Huxter, whose mission is funded through the Wesleyan Church in Yarmouth, later that night. She said the top of her three-storey building swayed back and forth several feet, but no one was hurt.

Canadians with family in Haiti can call Foreign Affairs' Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa (800) 387-3124, (613) 943-1055, or email sosinternational@gc.ca. Canadians in Haiti can get in touch with Canadian Embassy officials in Port-au-Prince by calling (613) 996-8885.

"They had quite a scare," MacDonald said. "The building started to shake, so they had to run outside."

Yarmouth, in southwestern Nova Scotia, has close ties to Haiti through Huxter's mission.

MacDonald said there are eight volunteers from the town and five from Dartmouth, as well as one from Lillooet, B.C. It was their second week in Haiti.

Strong connection

Linda Comeau breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday when she heard that her husband, Robert, was safe. The couple travelled to Haiti to volunteer last month. He decided to go back.

"I knew they were OK, but still in your heart, you wonder," said Comeau.

Comeau is haunted by the images of the destruction and despair in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. She said it's impossible not to feel a connection with the country.

"It's just something you're drawn into. If you go once, you just have to keep going back," she said.

Rev. Bill Newell, leader of several Baptist churches, said he's just "heartsick." His son, daughter-in-law and three young grandchildren are among the volunteers, and brought shoes, clothing and art supplies to the school.

"I can't imagine a city of that size and the main hospital completely collapsing, what that's going to do for the people of that country," said Newell.

Heather Rhyno is urging Nova Scotians to donate to Haiti relief efforts.

"It's horrific to see that," said Rhyno, whose husband is on his 12th trip. "I just want to be there because my husband is there, but I don't know if I could do anything to help anybody."

The group is due back in Canada next week.

Up to three million people have been affected by the earthquake, according to the International Federation of Red Cross. Officials said it would be another day or two before they would know the scale of the disaster.

There are no confirmed Canadian casualties.

With files from The Associated Press