A a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake centered approximately 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, struck at at 16:53:09 local time (21:53:09 UTC) on Tuesday 12 January 2010. Most of Port-au-Prince’s major landmarks were significantly damaged or destroyed in the earthquake, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral and at least one hospital. The United Nations reported that headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), located in the capital, collapsed and that a large number of UN personnel were unaccounted for including the Mission’s Chief. Haiti is a poor country, ranked 149th on the Human Development Index (of 182 countries). There is concern about the emergency services’ ability to cope with a major disaster, and the country is considered “economically vulnerable” by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
I first visited the Island of Haiti in 1979 on the Boheme Cruise ship with my family and both of my Grand Mothers. The object poverty was apparent at the time and sadly conditions have not improved much for the lovely people of this country. There were so many people who sought to sell their arts and crafts to tourists from the ship, just to have a chance to make a living. As the political and government situation destabilized off and on over the next 30 years, most cruise lines no longer visit the country out of concern for the safety of their passengers. The one exception to this rule has been Royal Caribbean’s private island Labadee. Even so, RCCL has often advertised the private island as belonging to the island of Hispanola, rather than the country of Haiti, for marketing reasons. Labadee is located on the North coat of Haiti, far from the quakes epicenter. We are awaiting any kind of Press Release from RCCL as to the status of their resort and if their ships will continue to stop their in the wake of this desperate tragedy.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world with 80% of the people living in poverty, and 54% of those living in what is called abject poverty. This tragic earthquake is exasperated by the poverty in that the buildings could not withstand the earthquake and they have very little equipment to help dig out those buried in the collapsed building. Perhaps, many of our readers have either visited Haiti in the early years of cruising, or more recently at Labadee while on on Royal Caribbean cruise. The Haitian people have always treated their visitors with such warmth and kindness. If our readers would like to return that kindness by sending aid to relief organizations, I have linked to the Fox News Website: Haiti Earthquake Aftermath: How to Help. They have been covering the tragedy all day and have the resources to vet and list some of the relief organizations. You can click on their links and then choose an organization if you would like to support one of these relief organizations. Just a reminder to all of our readers, beware of internet solicitations or appeals for relief assistance. Make sure you check and double check any organization before giving money.
We invite our readers to share their memories of visiting Haiti.