17 JANUARY 2010


As there are many requests for information, I will send you all the same message. Sorry if some of you don't know the people involved, they are all our colleagues and friends. This is what happened

14 of the Human Rights team were in the Human Rights building, Villa Mena, which is a private house rented for us by the mission. We were all at the weekly meeting in the basement conference room when, at 4.50 PM, we heard a huge roaring sound, like a thousand MAC trucks coming up the hill, and suddenly the Chief, Lizbeth Cullity jumped as she was the first to realise it was an earthquake. We all ran for the door to the garden, but were falling all over the place as the floor was rocking and there was a horrible crackling sound as the room walls and ceiling fell apart into shattered plaster and clouds of dust all over us. I could not get up off the floor but my two colleagues, Oumar and Arnaud , pulled me to my feet and I climbed out over rocks through the opening where the door used to be. Somebody was shouting that there was a person under the debris and it turned out to be Lisa Mbele-Mbong, who was killed instantly and Dieudonne Munyinga, who was injured by falling rocks and had a bad head wound. (He is now in Santo Domingo in hospital and is ok).

We made our way onto the street to get away from potentially falling walls and there was a lot of confusion as there were many many people screaming because most of the buildings on the street had collapsed or caved in and also everybody was asking for news of their colleagues. Then there was an aftershock, which we later learned was a 5 on the Richter Scale, and there was general panic. It was also then that somebody told us that the told us that the main headquarters building, The Christopher Hotel, had completely collapsed and very few got out. Then there was yet another tremor (also a 5) and everybody was panicked but did not know what to do . It was absolutely terrifying. A security officer advised us to go the Philipino camp, which is beside the Christopher and was not badly damaged but I did not feel good about this as I have been in the building before with Christian . Then another Security told us to go to parking lot 8, which is a wide open space and that is where we spent the night. It was full of staff and locals with children as the parents had come to the neighbouring school to pick up their children when the quake hit. The school was badly damaged and many of the kids had injuries, some very bad. Two Haitian women near me died of their injuries. We had Dieudonne in the back of a car and eventually, about two hours later, they were able to get an ambulance to the parking lot to take injured to the Philippine doctors. . People were fighting to get the injured into the ambulance and he did not get out in the first trip. Then a bus came to take more injured. We were lucky in that one staff member had the keys to one of our vehicles so 8 of us spent the night in the car.

All night long we were getting reports form UNPOL, military and other civilians about the status of the Christopher, all of them bad, and eventually we were told that it was very unlikely that there were any more survivors. One of the staff in the building who survived, Patrick Heine, who was in his sixth floor office near the balcony when the quake hit fell three floors, and was trapped under debris. His legs were trapped by a big boulder and a large filing cabinet fell on his arm, but they succeeded in getting him out two hours later. He has a broken leg and many cuts but in the realm of things, he was very lucky but his wife ,who was in the Villa Privee which also collapsed, is still missing. He said it all happened so quickly and he was sure that the other staff were probably dead. The rescue workers found him because he was banging on the filing cabinet with a rock and shouting as he was very afraid that more boulders would fall on him. During the night rescue workers tried to find other people and got two more out, Ekaterina Pischalnikova, who is injured and has been sent to Santo Domingo and a security officer, Tarnaud, whom I dont know.

Chief and Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Hedi Annabi and Luiz Da Costa are confirmed dead. Missing and presumed dead are , Andrea Loi, Andrew Grene, Gerard Le Chevalier, Jean-Philippe LaBerge, Renee Carrier, Kai Bucholtz, Ann Barnes . Nicole Valenta, Antoinette . we are not sure if Jerome Yap was there and have not been able to find him. Of course there are many others missing.

This morning we went back to look at the offices and the Villa Mena is totally destroyed. My office and the office of the Chief, are flattened as is the second floor, we can both only thank God that we were at the meeting or it would have been us too.

We are now in borrowed offices at LOGSBASE, which is a container compound and did not suffer much damage, just falling file cabinets etc. and where many aid workers are coordinating rescue efforts, medical, food shelter etc. . As well as thousands of dead (they picked up 4000 bodies yesterday and that is the tip of the iceberg) there are thousands and thousands of injured, and hundreds of thousands without shelter.

The damage to the City is enormous. It seems the epicenter was at Carrefour/Martissant and nobody knows how many dead in that area. Many many hotels etc. fell in that area. Half of the National Palace (home of Preval) was distroyed although he is ok. The cathedral, the national petenitiary where there were 3000 prisoners, the parliament etc. were all destroyed.

The Montana collapsed and there are reportedly 200 guests missing. The building where I live in Petionville, the Ritz Kinam, had enormous cracks and was too dangerous to enter so I am now staying with a colleague. The areas of Montagne Noir, Rt. Kenskoff and Morne Calverte, suffered little damage.

So there it is, I have lost everything, passport, green card, etc. all personal effects, but I am very lucky to be alive and these things do not matter.

Please help the Haitians in any way you can, its is truly a devastating situation.