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Engineers rush to help Haiti's quake victims

Dozens of civil engineers trained in emergency aid provision rushed to Haiti this week after it was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

Over 100 more are on standby as the full effects of what looks to have been the deadliest quake on record become known.

Engineering disaster relief charity RedR is co-ordinating the UK’s engineering effort and is preparing to send a full assessment team.

Up to 200,000 people are thought to have died after the quake destroyed public buildings such as schools, hospitals and government buildings, and levelled entire neighbourhoods.

The US military is leading the immediate humanitarian mission with an initial deployment of 3,000 troops. President Obama has pledged a total of 10,000 troops − equivalent to the British military presence in Afghanistan − to deal with the immediate relief effort and subsequent clean-up.

“The losses that have been suffered in Haiti are nothing less than devastating. Right now roads are impassable and the port damaged.”

President Obama

“The losses that have been suffered in Haiti are nothing less than devastating,” said Obama. “Right now in Haiti roads are impassable, the main port is badly damaged, communications are just beginning to come online, and aftershocks continue.”

There is little or no working water infrastructure remaining in the capital Port-au-Prince. Aid agency CARE International has distributed 600,000 water purification tablets − each enough to purify 10l of water − to help.

Twenty RedR engineers are already in or en route to Haiti following requests from aid agencies and 125 more were on standby as NCE went to press.

RedR has already set aside £20,000 from its emergency appeal fund to send a full assessment team to the island within the next two weeks in partnership with French humanitarian training organisation Bioforce.

The assessment team will consist of RedR water and sanitation expert Cheryl MacDonald and Bioforce logistics specialist Jean- Phillippe Lezau.

“Training is required in areas such as water and sanitation, shelter and reconstruction.”

Martin McCann, RedR

The team will spend two weeks identifying the specific needs of the aid community in Haiti before establishing a training programme, which will cost an estimated £200,000. So far it has raised £80,000.

The programme for local and international aid personnel is expected to focus on technical training in water and sanitation and in shelter and logistics. It will also focus on security training.

“Training will particularly be required in technical areas such as water and sanitation, shelter and reconstruction,” said RedR chief executive Martin McCann.

“This huge quake has ripped apart the lives of millions of people in one of the poorest nations of the world.”

Brendan Gormley, DEC

“Considering the current security situation, we also anticipate that training and support will be necessary in this field. In the longer-term, it is expected that there will be a need to develop capacity for project planning and management.”

RedR’s free online technical support service has also been called into action. It comprises a panel of more than 150 technical experts with extensive field experience.

Lead water and sanitation aid agency Unicef has asked RedR to provide technical support, and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain requested support before deploying an emergency team on 14 January.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) representing UK charities is also mobilising agency staff to Haiti.

“This huge quake has ripped apart the lives of millions of people in one of the poorest nations of the world,” said DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley.

“It is clear after the immediate rescue attempt is completed we will be left with ongoing humanitarian challenges.

“DEC member agencies and their partners are responding but face terrible suffering. We urgently need the public’s help for their work.”

“It is clear after the immediate rescue attempt is completed we will be left with ongoing humanitarian challenges.”

Brendan Gormley

Logistics for the disaster relief effort are being hampered by capacity limitations at Port-au- Prince International airport.

The airport has no automated unloading equipment and it takes up to four hours to unload aeroplanes bringing in vital supplies.

The US military is using its Guantanamo Bay base in western Cuba as a staging-post to ferry food and supplies to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, moored in the sea off Port-au-Prince. Helicopters are dropping provisions.

Food is also being brought in by road from the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

  • Donate to RedR’s appeal online or call 020 7840 6000.


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