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Major catastrophe shakes Haiti
January 12, 2010

Major catastrophe shakes Haiti
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Jan. 12, 2010 - A major earthquake centered 10 miles southwest of the capital city Port-au-Prince shook the country of Haiti Tuesday afternoon, causing extensive damage and unleashing more devastation on the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. It struck at 4:53 p.m., followed by several strong aftershocks.

 The powerful earthquake, which initially registered as magnitude 7.0, is believed to be the strongest to ever hit the area. Buildings are reported to have collapsed, and rescue efforts are under way. The Associated Press said its reporters saw a hospital collapse in the wealthy suburb of Petionville that overlooks the capital. Catholic Relief Services said the group's representative in Haiti, Karel Zelenka, described "total disaster and chaos" before telephone service was lost.

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Speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama said: “My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake. We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.” 

"I think it is really a catastrophe of major proportions," Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the U.S. told CNN. He added that he had spoken with a colleague in Port-au-Prince and "he said houses were crumbling on the right side of the street and the left side of the street. The only thing I can do now is pray and hope for the best."

In Hawaii, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "We are still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti. The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region. We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. And our prayers are with the people who have suffered, their families, and their loved ones."

In September 2008 Haiti suffered massive destruction wrought by Tropical Storms Fay and Hanna and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The four consecutive storms left 800,000 Haitians in need of humanitarian assistance, and left many of Haiti’s 8.5 million citizens homeless – without food, water, shelter, or healthcare – and compounded the food shortage which came to light during the food riots in April 2008. The breadbasket region of Haiti was flooded by storm waters, destroying an estimated $180 million in crops.

Jesuit Refugee Service provides humanitarian assistance to Haitian refugees and migrants dwelling along the Haitian border with the Dominican Republic. Our field office in Ouanaminthe Haiti has seen the effects of the recent string of natural disasters.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA has urged the Obama Administration to provide Temporary Protected Status to Haitians. The designation of TPS would stop the deportation proceedings against about 30,000 Haitians in the United States, and allow them to apply for work permits and send desperately needed remittances back to Haiti.

In October 2009, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said it was "critical that Haitians living in the U.S. are immediately granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This is the missing piece in current U.S. policy which would successfully help Haitians in the short and long term."

In July 2009, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, (D.-FL) renewed his call for temporary protected status for Haitian migrants. He said it was “immoral and irresponsible” to continue to deny TPS, noting that repeat hurricanes and an economic crisis have “practically dried up the remittances on which so many Haitian families rely.”

The earthquake which struck Haiti Jan. 12, 2010, has killed an untold number of people and destroyed buildings and roads in an already crumbling infrastructure. Now more than ever, Haitians will need help.

Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
202-462-0400 ext. 5946