PALM BAY, Fla. – Haitian community leaders and elected officials in Palm Bay and across Florida were working to organize a unified response to a devastating earthquake that brought more misery and death to the Caribbean nation.
The nation continues to be hit by more earth-rattling aftershocks amid rescue and cleanup efforts, according to News 6 partners Florida Today.
“It just saddens my heart, my family is from that very region of the country,” said Palm Bay City Council member Donny Felix, who spent Saturday evening on a conference call with Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. about the situation.
“It just made me think, ‘When will we get a break?’” said Felix, who also is president of the Haitian American Association of Brevard, an organization based in Palm Bay where most of the county’s 5,000-plus residents of Haitian descent reside.
The deadly earthquake jolted the southwestern section of Haiti early Saturday, sending people running into the streets and some buildings cascading to the ground in several locations. Residents took to social media to show the damage along with videos of people being pulled from the rubble.
By early Sunday, nearly 800 had been declared dead with thousands more injured. The 7.2-magnitude earthquake — which struck on the anniversary marking the beginning of the Haitian Revolution in 1791 —also comes as the nation continues to reel from the July 7 assassination of the nation’s president.
Across Florida, where more than half a million Haitians and Haitian Americans live, community leaders were evaluating the needs of the republic. Felix said more clarity on how, where, and what to give will be coming soon. Others were also putting together a response to assist financially.
“Today, we watched in fear and excruciating pain as images from Facebook and WhatsApp messages revealed the devastation of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake ravaging our homeland,” read an official statement from the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network, a nonprofit coalition of elected officials and others.
“Haiti has endured so much and now in the midst of a political crisis, Haiti is hit with another blow to the country’s weakening infrastructure,” the group stated in a news release.
“Money right now is the best thing,” Felix said. “I will be going to the city of Palm Bay. We do have disaster relief that was founded for situations like this.”
He added that organizers of stateside groups aiding Haiti want to avoid what happened following the 2010 earthquake that struck the island.
“There were many reports that showed how big-name organizations raised funds but did not do any justice to Haiti. We want to make sure the relief is getting to the people.”