Taipei (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A magnitude 7 earthquake struck the island of Haiti overnight, the poorest nation in the northern hemisphere, destroying entire buildings and leaving hundreds and perhaps thousands dead. Haiti is one of the countries of Central America that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The Foreign Office in Taipei has already expressed willingness to send teams specialized in emergency aid and earthquakes.
In Haiti all communication is down and the only news so far is via satellite. According to eye witness accounts from workers on the ground in a Catholic NGO, Port-au-Prince, the capital is "total chaos" smoke and dust rising from the ruins, survivors and injured people who go around seeking help, people who are still under the rubble. Thousands of people wander the streets crying, which shows, each step revealing new destruction.
The UN, which has 7 thousand peacekeeping soldiers and 2 thousand policemen on the island, said that a building of its headquarters was damaged, and "a large number of its staff scattered”. The UN has been present on the island since 2004, when the then President of Haiti, Bertrand Aristide went into exile.
Haiti, with a population of approximately 9.6 million inhabitants, was recovering from various natural disasters - 4 tropical storms or hurricanes - which killed 800 people in 2008.
The poverty of the country is abysmal. The World Bank estimates, the average income per person is 560 U.S. dollars, 54% of Haitians live on less than $ 1 a day and 78% with less than $ 2 per day.
In Taipei, Foreign Ministry spokesman Henry Chen said that his ministry is collecting information on the disaster to see how and when to intervene. Specialized teams of firefighters are ready to depart. Among them there are 140 people specializing in emergency and 8 dogs trained for rescue. The group was launched in 2000 after an earthquake that struck Taiwan in September 1999, and caused thousands of deaths.