NOVATO (KPIX) — On Saturday at about 8:30 a.m. local time, Haiti was rocked by a massive earthquake about 90 miles west of the capital of Port au Prince. Early reports showed buildings had been toppled with people buried under the rubble. Meanwhile, one Novato couple with ties to the island nation are already gearing up to help.
Jaqueline Oriscar Lee and her husband Randall Lee huddled over a laptop computer viewing the shocking images: A woman and her child being pulled from under a mass of concrete; the wail of injured people in a makeshift hospital; a collapsed church that had been hosting a baptism ceremony.
Watching these early videos coming from Haiti was disturbing enough but, having grown up there, Jaqueline Oriscar Lee said that while others are watching it with their eyes, she sees it with her heart.
“There’s a lot of destruction,” Lee said. “A lot of houses just collapsed, a lot of people died and we see that we have people under the rubble right now. So, they’re trying to see if they can get them out but I’m looking at some places that don’t even have the proper materials to do that job.”
With a magnitude of 7.2, Saturday morning’s quake was even stronger than the one that devastated the island in 2010 which killed more than 300,000 people.
Once again, the latest videos show people running in the streets and buildings flattened as throngs wander around in shock. Try as they might, the Lees haven’t had much luck getting through to anyone in the area.
“Those that we’re trying to reach out to in the south to see how their wellbeing is — we can’t connect,” Randall Lee said. “We can’t get ahold of them. Cell towers are down, lines are cut and so forth.”
The couple felt so bad about the lack of recovery from the 2010 disaster that they founded “Haiti On The Rise,” a citizen’s relief organization to raise funds for direct help to the country. Following the 2010 quake, there was Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that wiped out most of the island’s agriculture. Add to that a surge of violent political upheaval, in which the nation’s president was assassinated and this latest natural disaster is just another blow to a nation for which the limits of human endurance are being tested.
“We don’t need anything else because we’ve been through so much,” said Jackie. “We are overwhelmed with … struggles and difficulties.”
And yet, the people carry on.
“Yes,” she said, “we carry on.”
People are still being pulled out of the rubble so the full extent of the tragedy is not yet known. But Jackie knows that organizations like hers will be called upon to provide relief for those who desperately need it. If you’d like to help, here’s a link to “Haiti On The Rise”