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Humanitarian Aid Group Gives Latest On Haiti Earthquake Response

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Earlier today, Haiti was hit by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. Hundreds are reported dead, but that number is expected to rise. The natural disaster threatens to further destabilize the country already wracked by political crisis connected to the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last month. To learn more about the situation on the ground, we called Cara Buck. She's the acting country director for Mercy Corps. She joins us now from Port au Prince. Cara, thank you. Thank you for being there for us.

CARA BUCK: Thanks so much for having me.

GONYEA: So where exactly did this earthquake hit? And I guess where is that in relationship to where you are?

BUCK: The epicenter of the earthquake hit a town called Nippes, which is on the south of Haiti. And it's about an hour flight away from from Port au Prince, where I am. I was jolted out of bed. It kind of just felt like the entire building was on water.

GONYEA: And what are you hearing about where the most severe damage is and what things look like there at this point?

BUCK: So we definitely are still, you know, trying to get as much information as we can. We do have a team of 19 based out of Nippes so based out of the epicenter that are on the ground and currently assessing the situation. We're hearing of collapsed buildings. So we're just trying to, you know, really assess what the needs are on the ground operationally. Logistically, getting to Nippes is quite difficult from PAP (ph). You know, you have one route going in via land that has high gang violence, high level of insecurity, and, you know, that's restricted. And there's one airport flying out of PAP that gets you into Nippes, which is, you know, obviously crowded with people trying to get in and out at the moment.

GONYEA: Many areas of Haiti were still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, which was five years ago. And they're also still feeling the effects - the disastrous kind of aftermath of another large earthquake back in 2010. That one displaced an estimated 1 1/2 million Haitians. It killed more than 200,000. And then, as we mentioned, there's the explosive political environment that's underway right now to consider. It's just an awful chain of events. And my question is what, my recovery from this one look like in Haiti? Is the government equipped to do what will be required in an emergency like this?

BUCK: And that's not even including increasing COVID cases that we're currently dealing with here in Haiti on top of food insecurity and poverty in this region, right? So, you know, the ability of, you know, the government to respond is certainly in question. And I think everyone is asking that very same question.

GONYEA: And what is the immediate concern right now for your team there?

BUCK: The immediate concern in any situation similar to this is, first and foremost, the safety and security of the team and ensuring that communities and individuals, families have what they need, anything that we can do to ensure that people are safe and have a roof over their head.

GONYEA: That was Cara Buck, the acting country director for Mercy Corps. Be safe. And thank you.

BUCK: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.