Monday, January 18, 2010

Malaysian in Haiti

The Star dated 13-1-2010, as reported by SIRA HABIBU

PETALING JAYA: Only three Malaysians were in Haiti when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the island Tuesday and all are reportedly safe, according to the Malaysian Embassy in Cuba.

Ambassador Yean Yoke Heng said apart from the two UN peacekeeping operations personnel and a spouse, there are no records of other Malaysians in Haiti.

“The survivors called the Embassy in Cuba about six hours after the quake.

“They called to say they are unharmed. They have also contacted their families in Malaysia,” he said on Wednesday.

Major James Lam and his wife are staying in Port-au-Prince, while fellow UN peacekeeper Sew Yuh Ling is based 255km away in Cap-Haitein.

The quake, said to be the most powerful to hit Haiti in two centuries, struck Tuesday shortly before 5pm local time. The epicentre of the quake was about 15km southwest of Port-au-Prince.

“The electricity supply to the complex where Major Lam and his wife is staying is cut. They are depending on generators,” Yean said.


Malaysian tell of hell in Haiti
The Star dated 17-1-2010
reported by SIRA HABIBU

PETALING JAYA: Major James Lam was on a dirt road heading back to his home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, while his wife was watering plants in their first floor apartment. It was just another day in idyllic Haiti.

Then, all hell broke loose. The ordinary turned into an extraordinary day of grief and horror when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck shortly before 5pm local time.

“Everything was shaking, walls and buildings crumbled, huge clouds of dust surrounded the air.

“My wife quickly ran out of the building to an open area,’’ said Major Lam, a retired Royal Malaysian Air Force officer.

The complex that housed their apartment miraculously withstood the tremor. Only a portion of the brick wall fence collapsed in the quake, said to be the most powerful to hit Haiti in 200 years.

In the aftermath of the quake, the Lams saw the worst devastation of their lives.

Countless bodies lined the roads as shocked survivors wailed and frantically searched for their loved ones.

As the hours grew, the living ones scavenged the streets in search of food and water.

“There is no food and water to buy even if you have the money. The supermarkets are closed.

“Volunteers tried their best to help find survivors. There are just so many dead bodies everywhere,” said Major Lam, a staff with the Minustah Aviation in the capital city of Haiti.

He added that the United Nation (UN) had set up tents to treat injured UN staff as well as the locals.

The UN was evacuating some of its injured staff to Santo Domingo and the locals to Martinique, he said, adding that he helped out in flight coordination activities.

On fellow Malaysian Sew Yuh Ling, an engineer based 255km away in Cap-Haitien, Major Lam said there were no UN flights to the region for the time being.

“She is safe as the town was not that badly affected,’’ he said.

Major Lam, who has been staying in Haiti for three years, said Doctors Without Borders volunteers were doing a great job.

He himself was waiting to be evacuated either by UN flight or any other flight arranged by the Malaysian Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

“If possible, I will try to get to Paris on one of the French relief flights. From there we can fly direct to KL International Airport,’’ he said.

Having stared death in the eyes, the Lams understandably just want to come home.

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