Philadelphia's Haitian community prepares to mobilize, offer aid to country after deadly earthquake

Saturday's earthquake also left at least 6,000 people injured, with thousands more displaced from destroyed or damaged homes.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Search and rescue efforts in Haiti continue following this weekend's deadly magnitude 7.2 earthquake that has claimed at least 1,419 lives.

Thousands more are injured and in the badly damaged coastal town of Les Cayes, health care is at capacity.

Many other Haitians are desperately waiting for help, which may be delayed by the approach of Tropical Depression Grace.

Members of Philadelphia's Haitian community are devastated by the images both seen online and, in some cases, sent by friends.

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"You just sit there watching the videos, there's nothing you can do. We just watched the earth open and people fell into it and family members are screaming, 'My father's dead, my father's dead,' and then there's nothing you can do," said business owner Marie Dume-Charles.

Dume-Charles is now working with the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce to help with relief efforts.

"Now, it's double trouble. Now, with the storm approaching it's really going to add to the challenges we already had on the ground," said Evelt Vertil, president of the Philadelphia Haitian American Chamber of Commerce.

Vertil said another challenge will be convincing members of the local Haitian community to assist, some who may still feel slighted by what some viewed as a delay in getting aid to those who needed it the most during past catastrophes.

"We have to keep fighting, we have to keep believing. We really have to keep staying on what we value the most which is really the dignity and the sanctity of human beings," Vertil said.
As far as what supplies are most needed, chamber officials said it's not just a simple as food and clothing, mainly because it's expensive to ship.

Right now, it's medical supplies and money that are most in-demand.

"We can use the money to help rebuild the houses, whatever we will need to rebuild the houses we'll pretty much find it over there," said Merytony Nathan, vice president of the Philadelphia Haitian American Chamber of Commerce. "We're asking people to please reopen your heart trust, without trust we wouldn't be able to do anything."

The chamber is fundraising for a trip in the coming days. Their short-term goal is to help rebuild about 300 houses.

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