A catastrophic earthquake in Haiti is hitting close to home for many Montrealers.
A powerful earthquake about 90 minutes outside the country’s capital has left more than 200 people dead, and hundreds more are missing.
The country is still recovering from a violent earthquake 11 years ago, and now as people comb through rubble and wonder what’s next, Haitian Montrealers are full of feelings of concern and helplessness.
“It’s unbelievable for us, again,” said Marjorie Villefranche, director of Maison D’Haiti, a Haitian community centre serving tens of thousands of Haitian expats living in the city.
A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the south of the country at about 8:30 a.m., turning many buildings to rubble and sending people running out of their homes out of fear they could collapse.
“We know that the hospitals are full and there is no help,” said Villefranche, who had been in contact with people in the area.
She said that the region of Haiti hardest hit by the quake is quite remote.
“It’s a very isolated region with no roads to go there, so how will the help get there? By plane? By boat? We don’t know,” she said.
Frantz Benjamin, a member of the National Assembly for Quebec’s Liberal Party, was born in Haiti. He said he felt great pain when he first heard about the earthquake.
“It’s a living nightmare once again,” he said.
Benjamin said he’s been hearing from Montrealers who have not been able to reach their loved ones living near where the earthquake hit.
“It is a stressful situation for them, of course,” he said.
Jean Numa Goudou, who runs a Haitian newspaper in Montreal, said dozens of people have been reaching out to him to find out more about what’s happening in Haiti.
“Everyone wants to know a bit more,” he said.
Goudou said his sources in Haiti told him a hotel had completely collapsed, along with many other buildings. He said communication with the area had become extremely difficult and speculated that communication towers had been destroyed by the quake.
“We’re going to need the solidarity and the help of the whole Canadian society,” said Benjamin.
He said a meeting was being planned with Montreal Haitian leaders to discuss what can be done to help.
Premier Francois Legault said on Twitter that his thoughts are with the Haitian population and that Quebec is with them. Mayor Valérie Plante said her heart is with Haiti and Montreal’s Haitian community. She said the city will help finance relief efforts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is “ready to assist” Haiti in any way it can.
“We feel useless here. You know, what can we do here?,” said Villefranche.
For now, Montreal Haitians can only hope and pray, as many expect the news is only going to get worse in the coming days.