For Haitians living in North Carolina, Tuesday’s earthquake is a disaster of unknown proportions. Those with family in the Caribbean nation have not been able to find out much – but what they have heard has not been comforting.
Nathalie Noel, a 22-year old student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has gotten little information from family members.
“The area of Delmas, where I once resided, is unrecognizable,” said Noel, who lived in Haiti all her life until leaving for North Carolina in 2006. “After the first shock, my sister was able for less than 30 seconds to talk to my mother, who advised us that our house and our entire neighborhood was completely gone in ruins, but that she and my disabled sister were alive. More than two dozen aftershocks have followed and we have never been able to get in touch with her since that brief conversation.”
Through the Internet, news shows and word of mouth from extended family members as far away as Canada, Noel has pieced together information, and what she has heard has been alarming – for instance, that Haiti’s National Palace and much of downtown Port-au-Prince was destroyed.
“Unfortunately, some my extended family members have lost their lives but the majority of the rest remain unheard of,” she said. “Word of mouth is that the majority of houses and businesses have completely collapsed.”
Eudora Stevenson gets error messages when she tries to call family members in Port-au-Prince. The 31-year-old salesperson from Wake Forest has a brother, two sisters, a stepmother and an aunt living there.
“I’m in the same boat as plenty of people,” she said this morning. “I’ve been trying to contact my brother and also my sister,” she said. “They don’t have electricity there so I haven’t had any luck.”
Robert Lisma, a 20-year-old junior at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, no information on his aunts, uncles and grandmother, most of whom live in Port-au-Prince, where the damage was centered. He is depending on his father and aunt, who are more experienced in navigating the Haitian telephone system, for information. But they have reached anyone.
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” Lisma said.
He knows the damage is quite extensive, though.
“I heard that this was one of the top five earthquakes in history and the worst ever, ever in Haiti,” Lisma said. Of one thing, he is sure: “People died. People were killed.”
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