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Relief Workers Head to Haiti (Update 15 Jan)

17 Jan | 2010

Experienced emergency workers are arriving in Haiti to help.

Experienced emergency workers are arriving in Haiti to help The Salvation Army's local response to the earthquake that has devastated Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area.

Lieut-Colonel Lindsay Rowe, Chief Secretary for The Salvation Army's Caribbean Territory, says: 'Like all other relief agencies The Salvation Army is experiencing a great deal of difficulty and frustration in its efforts to get emergency response personnel and vital supplies of food, water and medical aid on the ground in Haiti. With the main seaport severely damaged and the airport stretched beyond its capacity, making vital supplies available to waiting teams and desperate people is a logistical nightmare.

'Even when the supplies reach the airport many streets and roadways are impassable, leaving victims stranded without access to aid. The level of tension is rising as people approach their third day without access to vital aid supplies and medical treatment.'

Yesterday (14 January) a plane carrying experienced emergency response personnel from the USA was diverted from Port-au-Prince when it was decided to close the airport to all but military aircraft. The plane finally landed at Cape Hatia, some six-eight hours drive from Port-au-Prince, and the team obtained vehicles to begin the arduous trip.

Team member Major Tom Louden said there were large holes in the road which they had to go around on the edge of cliffs that had no guard rails. Because of the road conditions the team could travel at only 20 miles per hour. The major reports that even away from the worst-hit areas people are walking around aimlessly. At times there were so many people in the street they had to wait for the street to clear to be able to pass through the crowds.

Another team is preparing to go to Haiti from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, USA, with a plane full of essential supplies. Also heading there are members of International Emergency Services from International Headquarters, London.

Staff from Caribbean Territorial Headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, have made arrangements for supplies and several volunteer doctors to travel to Haiti on two planes and Lieut-Colonel Rowe says other containers are loaded and ready to be shipped when the ports are open to receive them.

The colonel concludes: 'The international Salvation Army is responding in an amazing way. We now have commitments of more than US$500,000 through various territories and International Emergency Services. Please pray for our teams arriving in Haiti and for strength and grace as they set up the command and distribution centres.'

Donations to the 'Latin America Disaster Fund' can be made online.