01/15/2010, 00.00
ITALY - HAITI
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Italian bishops, extraordinary collection for victims of Haiti

The donations collected in churches this Sunday, January 24th will be devoted to earthquake relief. The distribution will be made through the Italian Caritas. Solidarity and aid from the Korean Bishops Conference. International Red Cross estimates 50 thousand victims. Fears of epidemics and social unrest.

Rome (AsiaNews) - The Italian bishops have organized a special collection to help the people of Haiti, hit by the 12 January earthquake. Accepting the invitation launched by Pope Benedict XVI, the donations collected in churches Sunday, January 24th will be devoted to victims of the earthquake. Meanwhile, International Red Cross sources speak of 45/50 thousand victims, but the number of dead is likely to increase over time, partly because of difficulties encountered by rescuers.

In a statement released yesterday by the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), the bishops stress that "tragic images" of the people of Haiti "calls all to solidarity to meet immediate needs." Sunday, January 24th there will be a "special collection" in all the Italian churches, and their proceeds will be sent to Italian Caritas.  

The Korean Catholic Church has also expressed "deep sorrow" for the earthquake victims and has set up an emergency team to help the survivors. Card. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, archbishop of Seoul, said he was "deeply shocked" by the death toll. The Cardinal has ordered the allocation of 50 thousand dollars for immediate needs. In a message sent to the bishops of Haiti, he adds that "we will ask the faithful for prayers and donations."

The devastating magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti has caused a countless number of victims. The International Red Cross says there are at least 45/50 thousand dead, based on information coming from the Haitian Red Cross and from official government sources. Yesterday President René Préval, whose palace was virtually flattened, had spoken of tens of thousands of deaths, Jean Max Bellerive, Haiti's prime minister, doubts that there "are less than 100 thousand". Other unofficial sources fear a greater number of victims than those of the tragedy of the tsunami in December 2004 caused more than 230 thousand deaths across Asia.  

More than two days after the disaster, despite several rescue teams arriving from abroad, the hope of finding survivors is fading by the hour. People are digging through the rubble with bare hands and collecting what they find. The difficulties encountered by rescuers include a lack of organization, exacerbating an already critical situation. The fear is that epidemics will break out given the precarious health conditions.  

The authorities want to prevent incidents of looting and desperation fearing social revolt. "If we do not get international aid, the situation could escalate," said one woman, while another adds: "We want more doctors and fewer journalists." In various areas of the capital Port-au-Prince, the citizens have erected barricades to protest the delay in rescue and aid distribution.

 

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