Worried Toronto offers help to Haiti
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | 5:06 PM ET
Torontonians of varying stripes are galvanizing to help the thousands affected by a devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Mayor David Miller says the city is already moving to respond.
"As with previous disasters, I have asked Toronto's office of emergency management to determine the best way for the city to respond," said Miller in a Wednesday news release.
Miller said the city is ready to send its heavy urban search and rescue team (HUSAR) if requested.
An earthquake measuring 7.0 struck Haiti on Tuesday causing untold damage and hardship in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The quake destroyed hundred of buildings in the area surrounding the capital, Port-au-Prince. Everything from schools and shacks to the National Palace was destroyed or damaged.
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN Wednesday the death toll from the earthquake that rocked his country could be "well over 100,000."
Toronto resident Sandra Whitely's husband, who is in the capital Port-au-Prince, called her just as the quake struck.
"It was right as it was hitting he called me. And the first thing he said was, 'I'm OK,' but ... then the screaming was ... you have no idea what that was like. The noise was so loud," she told CBC News.
He sent her text message a few hours later saying he was all right and he loved her. But Whitely has heard nothing since. Aftershocks have hit the island nation in the hours following the initial temblor.
"The thoughts and prayers of all Torontonians go out to all those affected by this terrible natural disaster," Miller said.
There are about 2,200 people of Haitian descent living in the Toronto area, according to the 2006 census.
'Powerlessness and hopelessness'
"Deep sadness. A sense of almost powerlessness and hopelessness," said Eric Pierre, Haiti’s honorary consul in Toronto, when asked how he felt about the damage the quake has wrought.
"When I look at those pictures on television, on the internet, I feel that this is our heritage, our history that is being destroyed."
Meanwhile, Global Medic, a Toronto-based relief organization, is mobilizing to help. The group's director, Rahul Singh, said it's of vital importance that those affected by the quake receive aid quickly.
"If you don't get the people that are marginalized and affected and at risk with the basics — food, shelter, water, especially water — that secondary calamity will be tenfold greater than the initial death toll. And that's what we've got to avoid," Singh said.
Singh and a team will be heading to Haiti on Wednesday to find out how the group can help.
Ontario to offer reconstruction help
Premier Dalton McGuinty has said the province will offer help in reconstruction efforts, such as restoring electricity, and health care.
"We have some expertise in a number of those areas — we've helped different parts of the world before. And we feel a sense of responsibility here — especially because of the diversity of our population," said McGuinty.
About 6,000 Canadians live in Haiti, said Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. A nurse from Elmira, Ont., has been confirmed dead.
The nurse was among a group of seven who were trying to set up clinics in rural Haiti, said the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada. The group arrived in Haiti on Tuesday afternoon, 90 minutes before the quake hit.
The nurse was the only one of the seven who died.
Cannon also confirmed said one Canadian suffered minor injuries, while another person trapped in a building sent a text message requesting help. Cannon said government officials knew where the message came from, and it was relayed to the Canadian Embassy staff in Haiti so that they could try to arrange assistance.
About 80 Canadian citizens are reported to be taking refuge in the compound of the Canadian Embassy in Haiti.With files from The Canadian Press
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