01/19/2010, 00.00
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Haiti earthquake: violence and hunger making the situation worse, says missionary

Fr Crescenzio Mazzella talks about “chaos and destruction”, about armed gangs “roaming the streets with guns and machetes”. Missionaries and nuns are working to help the population. There is no food, water or fuel. The Catholic Church and Catholic organisations launch solidarity campaigns to help quake victims.
Rome (AsiaNews) – “Port-au-Prince is pure chaos, unliveable. There are scenes of destruction, armed gangs roaming the streets of the capital with guns and machetes, looting and plundering,” said Fr Crescenzio Mazzella, superior of the Camillian communities, as he spoke to AsiaNews about the tragedy that has struck Haiti. As the international community continues to struggle to deliver and distribute aid and rescuers keep on digging among the rubble to find survivors, the death toll rises steadily. According to the latest estimate, the number of dead could be as high as 200,000 with many more wounded and about 1.5 million homeless people.

Speaking on the phone with AsiaNews, Father Mazzella, a Camillian missionary, described the work of priests, nuns and volunteers helping the local population, which was hit by a 7-magnitude earthquake at 4.53 pm (GMT - 5.00) on 12 January.

“It is hard for missionaries to communicate with one another and with volunteers to coordinate aid for the population. Parishes have been mobilised to deal with the emergency. We are trying to keep hospitals running to help the wounded.”

In the capital, there are enormous difficulties in delivering aid and hand out food. All the stores are shut and it is almost impossible to bring in supplies of food and fuel. The lack of power prevents the use of pumps for drinking water. US soldiers have started dropping supplies from the air because the capital’s airport is so crowded that planes have a hard time landing and taking off. The port has been destroyed and ships cannot dock.

“Many people live in the streets, out in the open, because they are afraid of going inside their homes. It is impossible to know if the buildings are still safe. Aftershocks continue and there is concern that more buildings will collapse,” Father Mazzella said.

Armed gangs and isolated criminals are roaming the streets looting and pillaging. “The situation is getting worse. We do not feel protected; walls have collapsed and there is no shelter,” he lamented.

The clergyman said that the facility hosting the sick has not been attacked “because criminals see the injured, and realise that we are trying to treat them. So they leave.” However, the city is a scene of “chaos and devastation”. “ In Port-au-Prince, lawlessness reigns. Gangsters are walking the streets and attacking with guns and machetes.”

In the meantime, the Catholic Church and ordinary Catholics are organising help operations for the population of the Caribbean nation. Responding to Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal, Italian bishops are organising a special fund-raising scheduled for next Sunday.

Anyone who wants to help Father Crescenzio can make a donation to the Madian Orizzonti Onlus, a non-profit NGO that has been involved in Haiti for many years. Please, send your donation to:  

Bank: IT64M0542801000000000077749 or

Post Office: c/c 70170733 – Object: Haiti Earthquake

The operational centre can be reached at 011-5628093 or 345-4733789

Among the many Catholic initiatives, there is that of Sister Marcella Catozza, a Franciscan nun from Busto Arsizio (Varese, Italy), who has been working in Haiti for many years. She has a page (in Italian) on the website of the Associazione Kay La to raise funds for the missionaries working in the island nation. (DS)



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