Area residents with ties to Haiti desperate for info

January 13, 2010 4:36:42 AM PST
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti, and officials there describe the scene as a "total disaster and chaos." As news of the earthquake in Haiti spread in the Chicago area, people with ties to Haiti are desperate for information.

Chicago-area residents with family and loved ones in Haiti gathered Tuesday night at a community center in Evanston. They met to make plans to try to help in the crisis. But they have little idea of what the situation is in their home country. Communication is all but impossible.

"It is tough to get information down there. I'm trying to get contact with friends and the government. I have my brother-in-law who is a congressman down there. I'm working with some senators down there. And try to call anyone but no contact yet," said Frantz Jacques.

The group includes Haitian community leaders throughout the city's North Side and suburbs. The Chicago area is home to a sizeable Haitian-American population and on Tuesday night there was deep concern and prayer.

At Grace Haitian Church on the South Side, a small group gathered at a prayer service on Tuesday night. They will also be organizing to help.

Darryl Auguste is one of few who has spoken with a relative there. His aunt has a satellite phone. She described collapsed buildings and overturned cars. She said she felt tremors and ran out of the building she was in.

"It's really bad out there, something I don't think they can handle honestly. Haiti can't handle this," said Auguste.

Haiti is a very poor country and many people will likely need help.

Pastor Jean Lilite of Grace Haitian Church pastor prayed with others even as has been unable to reach his sister in Port-Au-Prince.

"I'm panicked. You have your friends and relatives and parents there. You don't know what is happening and I understand, it is reported that there may be more buildings down than up," said Pastor Lilite.

There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Hatian-Americans in the Chicago area. What local organizations are doing is trying to combine efforts rather than act individually. They also realize that the Red Cross is mobilizing their relief efforts as well.

The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747.