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Thousands of Haitians living in the Boston area are anxiously awaiting word from loved ones following the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck 10 miles west of the Caribbean nation's capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday.
"It is total devastation," said Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, one of two Haitian-Americans serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, in an interview with WBUR on Wednesday morning. "The quake hit between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and the next thing you know, it's night. So, this morning, we're really going to get a sense of what's happening in terms of the loss."
The earthquake toppled buildings and devastated communication lines and rescue crews are still trying to get a handle on the scale of the damage. The International Red Cross said as many as 3 million people may have been affected by the quake.
"If the National Palace could cave in, you could just imagine [what happened to] these smaller homes," Dorcena Forry said.
Dorcena Forry's parents grew up in Haiti and her aunt still lives there. As of Wednesday morning, she had not been able to reach family or friends, with landlines down and only some cell phones working on the island nation. Throughout the interview, she checked her phone, hoping for updates.
"I fear it's the worst," Dorcena Forry said. "I feel confident that our government, President Obama and Sec. Clinton, will do all that they can to provide resources to Haiti, but, again, this is going to be tough."
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Obama said, "The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief — the food, water and medicine — that Haitians will need in the coming days."
For the more than 40,000 Haitians in Massachusetts — the third-largest concentration in the country, behind Miami and New York City — the aftermath's uncertainty, thousands of miles away, is difficult to deal with.
"The sense is sadness," Dorcena Forry said. "Haiti has already had preexisting issues, like the four hurricanes that hit [in late 2008], and people still haven't recovered from that, and to have this 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti is just a devastating blow."
The state representative was scheduled to participate in a conference call on Wednesday with the White House and the United States' other 20 Haitian-American elected officials.
"I think we can do a lot," Dorcena Forry said of how Massachusetts residents might assist Haiti. "What we want to do is wait to see what our government has figured out in terms of the direction or the need. [We need to] remain calm. At this point, it's about understanding what we can do to rebuild Haiti. The Haitian people there are resilient people. There have been all these tragedies and they always seem to come out of it. Now is the opportunity to rebuild."
This program aired on January 13, 2010.
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