Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Severe Earthquake Devastates Haiti

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A powerful earthquake, measuring 7.0 in the Richter scale, struck an area 16 kilometers (10 miles) away from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, on January 12, 2010, causing destruction of thousands of buildings and infrastructures and innumerable deaths. The government of Haiti at this moment estimated the death toll to be around 100,000. The number of deaths is expected to rise to several hundred thousands in future.

The earthquake was just 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) below the earth's surface. This shallowness of the earthquake shook the ground more dangerously causing widespread devastation in the capital city, where most of the building were constructed without following strict building codes necessary for an earthquake-prone zone.

Haitian President Rene Preval told the CNN, " You have to see it to believe it. Lots of houses destroyed, hospitals, schools, personal homes -- a lot of people in the street dead." The President said that he himself has been affected by the earthquake. "I cannot live in the palace; I cnnot live in my own house [palace]. The two collapsed. But now I am working on how to rescue the people."

President Preval appealed to the international community to be generous: "We need doctors, we need medicine, we need medical help in general, " he told the CNN. The President mentioned that in the meantime, Argentina, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Venezuela, and the United States started to provide help for the earthquake victims.

Canadian Presence in Haiti

Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised a generous help for Haiti. The CTV reports that the Canadian government has a large presence in Haiti. Canadians are also attached to the United Nations Stabilization Mission there. A good number of Canadian Mounted Police and members of the Department of National Defense also work in that country.

Michaelle Jean, the Governor General of Canada is originally from Haiti. She came to Canada when she was a child. In a statement she said: "This natural disaster has hit a country with an extremely fragile infrastructure, where many buildings are already unstable, and where living conditions are often very difficult. I fear for its people. I would like all Haitians to know that they are not alone and that the people of Canada will respond to this emergency."

Background of Haiti

Haiti is a rugged and mountainous country of 27,750 kilometres and a population (80% Roman Catholic and 16% Protestant) of over eight million. Presently it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

When Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola (presently the same island divided into the two countries -- Dominican Republic and Haiti), Arawak Amerindians populated there. The Spanish administration almost decimated the Arawak people within 25 years. In 1697, due to French presence and pressure in the island, the Spanish gave the third part of the island to the French which later took the name of Haiti.

Since the Arawaks were almost extinct, the French brought African slaves to work in the forestry and sugar industries. Later the slaves under Toussaint L'Ouverture revolted against the French and in 1804 declared Haiti's independence. Haiti was the first black republic. Bookmark and Share