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January 15, 2010
Thousands dead, missing after massive earthquake

All Vincentians, known to be in Haiti when Tuesday’s massive earthquake struck, are safe.{{more}}

SEARCHLIGHT has confirmed that Francine McDonald, Justin Providence, Mikey Browne and Alberto White, who all live and work in Haiti, are alive and well.

There had been initial concern about McDonald, who works in the Humanitarian and Development Coordination Section of the United Nations (UN) mission in Haiti and had not been heard from. However, early Thursday morning, over 33 hours after the earthquake hit, she managed to make contact with her relatives.

In a text message received at 3:26 a.m. yesterday, McDonald assured relatives that she is fine. Her mother Jeannie Ollivierre told SEARCHLIGHT that the brief message also said that communication is poor, there is total devastation in Haiti, and we should continue to pray.

The five-story headquarters of the UN peacekeeping and civilian assistance mission where McDonald works collapsed during the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, and up to press time on Thursday, over 100 UN workers were still unaccounted for.

The three other Vincentians residing in Haiti were however able to make immediate contact with their relatives. Providence, Browne and White, all employees of the telecommunications company TalkPool AG, are thanking God for saving their lives.

SEARCHLIGHT spoke with Providence, who is an Operations and Maintenance Engineer with his company, on Wednesday evening.

“I was able to contact my family within a few minutes after running out of the four storey building where our office is located. All of the workers and other occupants of the building were able to run out safely. No severe damage was done to that building though.”

As we chatted with Providence via the Internet, the interview was interrupted by aftershocks which he estimated to be of magnitude 5.5.

Providence, who has lived in Haiti since 2006, said when he went into Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, he was shocked at what he beheld.

“Today I went in the capital and it was totally devastated. The National Palace is in crumbles. So too are numerous hospitals, schools, police stations and other important buildings. As I travelled through the capital area, I saw dead bodies strewn along the sides of the street. You can see people trapped in buildings as they made one last dying effort to escape.”

For now though, Providence, Browne and White are being kept busy, as their company, which designs, constructs and maintains fixed-line and mobile networks for telecommunications operators, is working to keep Digicel’s network alive at this critical time.

Providence made a special call to Vincentians to continue to pray for Haiti and to give generously to any relief effort which is launched.