On the Ground in Haiti: Oxfam's Humanitarian Coordinator Describes the Scene

Jan 14, 2010, 14:06 ET from Oxfam America

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Cedric Perus, humanitarian coordinator in Port-au-Prince for international aid agency Oxfam, said:

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"I have seen wounded people flooding into the hospitals and buildings of several stories high that are now totally flat. Several thousands have probably died in the quake, but it will take time to get a full picture.  Bodies may stay under the rubble for a long time because it is difficult to access some sites, and heavy lifting equipment is in limited supply.

"There are bodies all over the city. People have nowhere to put them so they wrap them in sheets and cardboards in the hope that the authorities will pick them up. People have also piled bodies in front of the city's main hospitals.
"Oxfam's teams have now started to assess the scale of the disaster across the different parts of Port–au-Prince as some have been more severely affected than others. The epicenter was near the slum of Carrefour, where people were living in flimsy shacks. There are reports that over 90 percent of its buildings are in ruins.

"Our immediate priorities will be providing safe water and shelter material for the people who have lost their homes. Many people have lost their homes and were sleeping out in the open last night. There has been no rain yet, but there was rain earlier in the week and if it comes again, it will make the situation much worse for all those made homeless by this quake. It is dangerous at night. Lootings were widespread and some markets were ransacked."

Oxfam has a staff of approximately 200 people on the ground in Haiti, including a group of highly-experienced emergency specialists.  This emergency team is supporting rescue efforts, assessing the damage, and responding with public health, water, and sanitation services to prevent the spread of waterborne disease. Additional emergency specialists have been dispatched from the United States, United Kingdom, and Mexico today, and Oxfam is preparing to send additional stocks.

Communication has been difficult since the 7.0 on the Richter scale quake struck ten miles southwest of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, but the situation is grave. Homes, office buildings, roads, schools, hospitals, and hotels have collapsed. Millions of people are affected, and the aid agencies need millions of dollars to get aid to all the people who need it.

To support Oxfam's efforts in Haiti, please donate to Oxfam America's Haiti Earthquake Response Fund at www.oxfamamerica.org, by phone (1-800-77-OXFAM), by fax (1-617-728-2562) or by mail (Oxfam America, Haiti Earthquake Response Fund, PO Box 1211, Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211).

SOURCE Oxfam America