PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, JAN. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Catholic aid agencies are joining the international emergency response to the earthquake that ransacked Port-au-Prince Tuesday, leaving thousands dead.
Although the number of casualties from the 7.0-magnitude quake is yet unknown, some have estimated that 100,000 were killed.
About 3 million people in total were affected by the disaster, and the country — the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere — cannot respond to the needs on its own.
International Catholic agencies such as Caritas and Aid to the Church in Need are providing food, medicine and shelter to the survivors.
Joseph Jonidès Villarson, the director of emergencies for Caritas Haiti, described the situation as the “worst disaster Haiti has experienced.”
He continued: “Many people have been killed in Port-au-Prince. Their bodies are everywhere on the streets of the capital. People are still under the debris.
“The hospitals are overwhelmed with the dead and injured. The risk of disease is great.”
The aid worker reported: “The streets and public places are filled with people who do not know where to go.
“We fear violence if the situation continues. Looting has already broken out. There is very little visible presence of the police.”
A priest in Haiti told Aid to the Church in Need on Wednesday that “even the strongest houses in the city are either completely or partially destroyed.”
The agency noted that many Church structures, including the seminary, were destroyed. Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of the Port-au-Prince Archdiocese was among those killed by the collapsed buildings.
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, underlined the Church’s dedication to assisting the victims of the earthquake.
He stated: “We urge the international community to support aid efforts.
“Haiti is a very poor country that needs our assistance. We have long warned that the lack of development in Haiti. Its dire poverty and its decaying infrastructure leaves it vulnerable to disasters.
“We are facing such an emergency now and we must respond quickly to save lives.”
The cardinal expressed the hope that this tragedy, which has prompted “media attention and the outpouring of humanitarian assistance,” will also bring “lasting solutions and commitment to alleviate the misery of Haitians and the infrastructural poverty of this beleaguered nation.”
During Wednesday’s general audience, Benedict XVI appealed for international aid in the form of prayers and financial support for Haiti.
The Holy Father affirmed that the “Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population.”
Some 50 countries have also sent support to the impoverished nation in the form of volunteer aid workers, pledges of money and material resources.