Sudbury's Haitian community rallies to help earthquake victims while waiting on word about loved ones

·3 min read
The earthquake in Haiti hit on the weekend. Loved ones in northern Ontario are waiting word on survivors and working to provide help. (Supplied by Bernadine Pierre Louis - image credit)
The earthquake in Haiti hit on the weekend. Loved ones in northern Ontario are waiting word on survivors and working to provide help. (Supplied by Bernadine Pierre Louis - image credit)

People in northern Ontario are in an agonizing wait on word about family and loved ones in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, with some taking action to provide help.

Some Canadians have already made contact, not necessarily hearing good news, since the weekend 7.2 magnitude quake that has killed more than 1,200 people. Rescue efforts are being hampered by tropical storm Grace.

Bernadine Pierre Louis, a Sudbury nurse from Arniquet in Haiti, has learned at least two family members — a cousin and his pregnant wife — had died in the quake.

"We tried to call ... he did not answer the phone," she said. "So one of my cousins went to his place, and I think they took him out [of the rubble] after five or six hours, and then his wife."

Pierre Louis said family members believe the couple was asleep when the earthquake hit. Another cousin ran outside with her kids.

"We thought she died too, because we had been trying to call her for two days," Pierre Louis said. "But when she left, she left her phone behind.

"Now, she's outside the house because now there's no house there, so she's just outside with two kids.

"What they told me," she added, "is they need food, they need water, and they're looking for tents. That's really what they need now."

Supplied by Bernadine Pierre Louis
Supplied by Bernadine Pierre Louis

Robbie Joseph, owner of Sudbury's Cuisine Tropicale, said the situation is dire, especially in rural communities that may not have access to enough medical equipment.

When news of the disaster began to filter across media, Joseph, also president of the Sudbury Haitian Association, said he quickly gathered the community together to see what they could offer.

It was a daunting task made more difficult by the challenges in establishing communications with people on the island, he said.

"We're very far from Haiti. You cannot just take a car and go over there."

Supplied by Bernadine Pierre Louis
Supplied by Bernadine Pierre Louis

The community met at Joseph's restaurant on Saturday. Their first task was to establish a supply line to get people in the ravaged country the items and resources they need.

"We are trying to put two teams together, one here in Sudbury to raise money to send over there, and another team in Haiti to receive the money and then buy whatever people need over there," Joseph said.

The teams are also trying to set up direct communication with the victims — families who have lost homes and are now seeking shelter from monsoon conditions.

"It's bad, and we still don't have a count for how many people died. People are still looking for their relatives," Joseph said.

"What we do know is most of the houses have been completely destroyed. Those people actually are living, they are sleeping, not even sleeping, because there's no shelter, there's no nothing."

Joseph, who has been part of rescue and support efforts for Haiti in the past, said the group is focused on raising money for people in need.

"First help is to get them some money so they can purchase whatever they need, so if people need medication they, can afford to pay for them," he said.

"We're not saying money can do everything, but money can do a lot of things that they need for now."

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