Haiti Earthquake: "It's Chaos, I'm Telling You -- It's Real Chaos"
On Tuesday, January 12 at 4:53 PM Haiti time (2153 UTC), a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince, the island nation's capital. Communications in and out of Haiti have been disrupted. The ARRL encourages US amateurs to be aware of the emergency operations on the following frequencies: 7.045 and 3.720 MHz (IARU Region 2 nets), 14.265, 7.265 and 3.977 MHz (SATERN nets), and 14.300 MHz (Intercontinental Assistance and Traffic Net); the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition (IRESC) is also active on EchoLink node 278173.
There was no firm estimate on how many people were killed by Tuesday's quake. Haitian President Rene Preval said the toll could be in the thousands: "Let's say that it's too early to give a number."
Tuesday's quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and in Eastern Cuba, but no major damage was reported in either place. The January 13 edition of The Daily DX reported that the Rev John Henault, HH6JH, made contact late Wednesday morning with the Intercontinental Assistance and Traffic Net (IATN) on 14.300 MHz; this is the IARU Global Center of Activity frequency for emergency communications. He said that he was safe, but had no power and no phone service. He was operating on battery power and hoping to get a generator running later in the day. The edition also noted that Pierre Petry, HH2/HB9AMO -- who was in Cap Haitien (about 140 km north of Port-au-Prince) is safe; Petry is in Haiti working for the United Nations World Food Program.
On Wednesday afternoon, Fred Moore, W3ZU, assisted Jean-Robert Gaillard, HH2JR, with a phone patch to his friend Ariel in Miami. "It's bad, it literally is bad," Gaillard told Ariel. "We don't know how many people are dead. We do not know what to expect. It's chaos, I'm telling you -- it's real chaos. We are really in a disaster area. It's really a war zone. Many, many buildings in the downtown area are stripped from the ground with many people buried underneath them - you name it, it's bad." Gaillard, who lives in Port-au-Prince, was using his neighbor's generator to make the contact. "It's really chaotic. I've never been in a war, but this is what a war zone would be like. Dead bodies all over the place, dead bodies buried. All I can tell you is that I'm okay, my house is okay. We've had 30 aftershocks, the main one yesterday. We are expecting some more shocks, so I'm a bit nervous to be inside the house."
According to IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Chairman Jim Linton, VK3PC, members of the Radio Club Dominicano (RCD) -- the Dominican Republic's IARU Member-Society -- and Union Dominicana de Radio Aficionados (UDRA) are preparing to go to Port au Prince on the morning of Friday, January 15, where they will install HI8RCD/HH, an emergency radio communications station and a mobile station.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate advised that US assets should not self-deploy to affected areas. "Initial reports from Haiti in the wake of yesterday's earthquake are concerning and troubling," he said. "During times like these, the emergency response community always stands ready to assist those in need. The United States Department of State has the lead for foreign disaster assistance, and US assets should deploy only if tasked to do so by the State Department. The most urgent need that the response community can fulfill at this time is supporting ongoing disaster relief fund-raising efforts."
On Thursday, planes carrying teams from China and France, Spain and the United States landed at Port-au-Prince's airport with searchers and tons of water, food, medicine and other supplies -- with more promised from around the globe. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that "tens of thousands, we fear, are dead" and said United States and the world must do everything possible to help Haiti surmount its "cycle of hope and despair." The US Army said a detachment of more than 100 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division was heading out from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, looking for locations to set up tents and other essentials in preparation for the arrival of another 800 personnel on Friday. That's in addition to some 2200 Marines to be sent, as the military prepares to help with security, search and rescue missions and the delivery of humanitarian supplies. More than a half-dozen US military ships also are expected to help, with the largest, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, arriving later Thursday.
Calls to emergency services weren't getting through because systems that connect different phone networks were still not working, said officials from a telecommunications provider in Haiti. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is deploying 40 satellite terminals and 60 units with broadband facility to re-establish basic communication links, along with experts to operate them. The ITU will also set up "a reliable, responsive and complete cellular system designed to enable vital wireless communications aimed at strengthening response and recovery mechanisms in a disaster zone," said ITU Emergency Communications Division Chief Cosmas Zavazava. The ITU has allocated a budget of more than $1 million US dollars to strengthen the disaster response effort in Haiti.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré, HB9EHT, expressed his solidarity with the people of Haiti and offered his condolences to the bereaved victims of the disaster. "The whole world is in shock following the devastation and untold misery caused by the earthquake in Haiti," Dr Touré said. "ITU will do everything possible to provide assistance to the people of Haiti by re-establishing telecommunication links which will be vital in the rescue and rehabilitation efforts in the days ahead."
"The scope of the disaster clearly shows that the response to this is going to be a long term effort," said ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP. "The ARRL has been in contact with communications leaders of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, as well as other key Amateur Radio operators throughout the region. As teams from the hundreds of responding agencies worldwide are formed for deployment, many will have Amateur Radio components. ARRL is committed to providing communications aid to our served agencies and working with the international community in this time of crisis. At this time there are no known requests from agencies for amateurs to travel to Haiti, but this can change. If it develops that there are ARES® assignments for a deployment in Haiti, these will be vetted and processed through each Section's Section Emergency Coordinators."
The situation in Haiti is still chaotic. More information will be posted as soon as possible. Information is being validated and shared between many amateur groups and news sources as it unfolds.