All Irish citizens in area alive and well, says Foreign Affairs

Thu, Jan 14, 2010, 00:00

IRISH IN HAITI: THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs has said all 18 Irish citizens known to be in Haiti are alive and well following yesterday’s devastating earthquake.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin also announced that the Government would provide
€2 million in emergency aid and had placed the Irish rapid response corps on alert.

“Reports reaching us from Haiti indicate the horrific extent of the destruction caused by this earthquake,” said Mr Martin, who added that all Irish citizens in Haiti had now been accounted for. Digicel, the mobile phone company in the Caribbean founded by entrepreneur Denis O’Brien, said it would provide $5 million in aid to NGOs spearheading the relief effort. Mr O’Brien said there was widespread chaos in Haiti.

“There are thousands of people who have lost their lives and many more who are severely injured. Everyone will remember the coverage of the
earthquake in China and this is as bad as that,” he told RTÉ. Digicel, which has 900 staff in
Haiti, said two of its staff members died during the earthquake.

Another Irish firm with a call centre operation in Haiti, Taxback. com, said all its staff were
safe. Managing director Terry Clune said he was due to travel to Haiti on Sunday with another Irish businessman to attend a “Soul of Haiti” charity event.

The Soul of Haiti Foundation was born out of a challenge set to the finalists in the Ernst &  Young Irish Entrepreneur of the Year Award to use their strategic expertise to help communities in Haiti.

The event is now unlikely to take place in Port-au-Prince and the charity said yesterday it would
focus its efforts on aid.

Conor Murphy, who is country manager with the Soul of Haiti Foundation, described a scene of
utter devastation yesterday in Port-au-Prince with buildings collapsed and reduced to rubble. He
said many buildings had collapsed like a “house of cards”.

Irish aid agency Concern, which has been operating in Haiti since 1994, said one of its staff members had counted 30 dead bodies on the short half-hour walk to work.

“We are looking at providing immediate medical assistance and we anticipate shelter requests,”
said Bríd Kennedy, regional director of Concern, who added that financial support was needed
to provide essential supplies.

Adele Lawler, who works with the Our Little Brothers and Sisters charity, returned from Haiti in
April after seven years in the country. She said she was hugely relieved to hear that her two Irish colleagues – Gena Heraty and Maeve Bracken – were okay.

“I’ve been in touch by e-mail earlier and they are safe but they are literally digging people out of the rubble with their hands,” she said.

One of the charity’s buildings in a suburb of Port-au-Prince collapsed and there had been at least one fatality, she said.

Mary Heraty, sister of Gena, said: “It sounds selfish but when we heard about the earthquake
our first and only concern was that Gena was okay. We spoke to her last night for about an hour after the earthquake but we heard screams in the background and realised we’d better get off the phone and let her help.”