Haitian Montrealers fear for family after weekend's deadly earthquake

Hardest hit was Port-de-Paix, in a remote region "well known as a place with a great situation of poverty," said Montreal city councillor and incoming MNA for the Viau riding Frantz Benjamin.

'They're afraid to go back inside the house,' says Montrealer Vox Sambou after reaching relatives in Lambé

A woman injured in an aftershock receives treatment outside the general hospital in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, Sunday. (Dieu Nalio Chery/The Associated Press)

Members of Montreal's Haitian community are worried for their friends and family after an earthquake struck the Caribbean island this weekend.

Authorities say at least 15 people are dead and 333 were injured in the a 5.9 magnitude quake that hit the region Saturday night and the 5.2 aftershock on Sunday.

Hardest hit was Port-de-Paix, an area "well known as a place with a great situation of poverty," said Montreal city councillor and incoming MNA for the Viau riding Frantz Benjamin.

Benjamin was born in the northern part of the country near the site of this weekend's quake.

Relief efforts will be complicated, he said, because Port-de-Paix, the capital of the island's northwest department, is in a region that is hard to reach by road.

Aftershocks continue

For Quebecers with family and friends in the area, it's a stressful time.

Vox Sambou was backstage at his solo EP release party Saturday night in Montreal when he heard the news of the earthquake from his brother.

He had called to tell Sambou that their family back home was safe.

Sambou, a member of Montreal hip-hop collective Nomadic Massive, was born in Lambé, south of Port-de-Paix. His parents, along with his sister-in-law and her children, are still there.

The one-two punch of the magnitude 5.9 earthquake in northern Haiti on Saturday that destroyed houses and killed at least a dozen of people followed by a strong 5.2 magnitude aftershock on Sunday has residents worried about returning to their cracked cinder block homes for fear they will collapse. (Dieu Nalio Chery/The Associated Press)

His sister-in-law's house was damaged in the quake, and he says his family is now camping out in their backyard.

"They're afraid to go back inside the house," said Sambou.

They were still feeling aftershocks Monday.

"They really think it's another earthquake," he said. "It brings back different traumas from the last one."

Avoiding mistakes of 2010

Benjamin said the country is still facing "great difficulties" from the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that left some 300,000 people dead in 2010.

In terms of the response from Canadians, it's essential to learn from the mistakes made at the time of that disaster, said Frantz Voltaire, director of the Centre International de Documentation et d'Information Haïtienne, Caribéenne et Afro-canadienne (CIDIHCA).

"I don't think it's necessary to send clothes or something like that because it's too complicated," said Voltaire.

He says what's most needed right now are medical supplies which can be hard to find on the island.

And it makes more sense to send money than food, he said, so that that the local economy can benefit from the aid.

Lodanise Joseph sits with her nine-month-old granddaughter Size outside their home damaged in the earthquake in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, Monday. Size's mother died in the earthquake. (Dieu Nalio Chery/The Associated Press)

"What we have to try [is] to send resources through the right channels," he said. "In the past earthquake, there was a lot of mismanagement of the money."

Voltaire said he is working with the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad to determine what is the best way to provide medical supplies to the hard-hit northwest region. The aid will likely have to be delivered by boat, small plane or helicopter, he said.

"We have to think about, after humanitarian aid, how to consolidate the infrastructure," he said. A quake of higher magnitude in that region, he said, could be a "real catastrophe."

In Canada, the impact of the quake is especially felt in Quebec, where the vast majority of Haitian-Canadians live.

"It is a family thing between Haiti and Montreal, between Haiti and Quebec and Canada," said Benjamin.

He says that if a request is made to the province for aid, "I hope that the Quebec government will be there to help."

With files from Navneet Pall and Isaac Olson


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