Sunday, January 17, 2010

The week Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, a personal implication and other news.

A ray of hope in the midst of the catastrophe, 2 year old Redjeson Hausteen Claude being lifted out of the rubble by the Spanish fireman and rescuer Felix del Amo on his first mission abroad.
Hello again,

My blog last week was all about the snow, but whilst we were enjoying it on Monday, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake almost devastated the impoverished and poorest country in the American continent, the small French speaking nation of Haiti located together with the Dominican Republic on what is known as the “Spanish Island” in the Caribbean. Haiti has suddenly become the country the whole worlds’ eyes are on as happens only when countries like this suffer natural catastrophes. The United Nations has already said it is the worst tragedy they have ever had to face. The UN itself, or rather the MINUSTAH (the UN Mission for stabilisation in Haiti) lost many members of its mission when its own building was also destroyed.
The building of the UN mission in Haiti which was totally destroyed by the earthquake last Monday.
It is difficult to calculate the destruction and the exact death toll in a country whose population can only be guessed at (some 10 million) as there are no registers for the living or the dead. Statistics of the dead fluctuate between 40.000 and 150.000 and buildings destroyed appear to be one in every three. In a country which has a history of natural disasters and where over 70% live below the poverty line with less than 2 euros per day, Monday’s earthquake seems especially unfair.

Aid is taking its time to help the desperate and sometimes violent population as there is a total lack of coordination and a scarcity of petrol to transport the aid and chaos reigns at the airport of Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital and the border with the Dominican Republic.

And here I am writing this Sunday afternoon 5 days after the quake and feeling totally involved. You will ask why. For more than one reason is the answer. Of course events like this, and I specially remember the Tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004, always have an impact on me. But when we remembered that Carolina, our neighbour of many years at our last house, was living in Haiti, we suddenly felt involved. Carolina works in Haiti for the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and is married to Luis Eduardo, a Venezuelan, who works for the UN Mission there too. They have 2 little girls called Carlota and Ximena aged 3 and 1 year old.
Luis Eduardo holding Carlota and Carolina holding Ximena just as they stepped off the Spanish repatriation flight from Haiti. They were lucky to survive the earthquake.
We were very happy to hear they had survived and when Olivia who, as you know, works for heard this, she immediately got in touch with the family to cover their story. Carolina’s parents Dulcinea and Eduardo and their son and daughter Eduardo and Graciela collaborated from the start and Olivia even went with them to meet Carolina and her family off the repatriation flight organised by the Spanish Government yesterday, a very emotional moment. Tears come to my eyes just by looking at the photos and my heart goes out to Dulcinea and Eduardo who have literally gone through hell as they did not get news of their daughter and family’s survival for 48 hours. Finally she was able to send them a text message which said: “we are all ok, terrible catastrophe, kisses”. Imagine!
Carolina reunited with her family. The joy and emotion on the faces of Carolina and her Father Eduardo are so vivid as is the relief on the face of Dulcinea, Carolinas Mother as she holds her grandchild tight as they all came off the plane which repatriated them from Haiti. This family were our neighbours for nearly 20 years in our last house. Our hearts go out to them and we are so relieved that Carolina, her husband Luis Eduardo and little girls Carlota and Ximena survived the catastrophe.

You can read the article Oli wrote here (in Spanish). In short Luis Eduardo was lucky to survive as in the moment of the earthquake he was not in the UN building but of course lost many of his colleagues. Carolina was at work when it happened and miraculously was able to get out unscathed physically but emotionally very shocked. Their little girls too survived although Ximena has refused to eat since.

Luis Eduardo who appeared yesterday on Informe Semanal (the top Spanish news programme of the week) together with some of Carolina’s colleagues as she was in no state to take part, told viewers he flew to Spain to bring back his wife and children but that within a week he would be returning to Haiti as “there is a lot of work to be done”. A very special man transcends here. Oli also organised their appearance on the programme and has been totally involved in their story and in this infernal disaster.

For my part I have contributed just a bit by communicating and coordinating with the Spanish Red Cross my company Yoigo’s efforts to do our bit. The first measure taken was to offer free calls for all our customers to any number in Haiti. Of course we are aware that most lines will probably be down so we took another step by setting up an SMS premium number for our customers to send messages. If they send the letters CR to the number 5280 we will donate the cost of every message (1.04 euros incl VAT) to the Spanish Red Cross for aid in Haiti. In fact I have spent the better part of this weekend on this project and feel happy to have done so. As it’s the weekend I have only been able to post this on Facebook and Twitter but tomorrow Monday we will publish it further.

There have, however, been a few rays of sunshine in this disaster. After the 72 hour mark it is very difficult for anyone to survive under the rubble without water. One case, the rescue of the 2 year old boy, Redjeson Hausteen Claude, made the headlines round the world with the photo of the Spanish fireman Félix del Amo, on his first mission abroad, lifting him out to hand him over to his Mother. The face of the little boy tells more than a thousand words and I bet Félix del Amo will keep this moment forever in his heart. Félix, I would have done anything to be you at that moment. I take my hat off to you and the other rescuers. This is the picture that illustrates my blog this week and I chose it because I would prefer to have this image in my retina to remember the Haitian disaster than any other and there are many horrific ones.
A miracle and ray of hope in the Haitain disaster - the 2 year old boy, Redjeson Hausteen Claude, being handed to his Mother just after being rescued by the Spanish fireman Félix del Amo and his colleagues.
Andrea Loi, a Chilean worker for the UN in Haiti, was not so lucky. Andrea was a friend of a friend of mine, Paola and we have been thinking about her all week. As I write now I heard her body has just been found. She must have been a colleague of Luis Eduardo. How terrible.

Writing anything after this seems banal. But actually there are 2 pieces of news this week that also had an emotional impact on me and they are to do with the 2nd world war, a topic which forever fascinates me as I think you already know and they are certainly not banal.

Miep Gies did not live to hear about the earthquake as she died aged 100 on the same day, last Monday 12th January. You probably know she was Otto Frank’s secretary and the person who kept the Frank family and friends fed and cared for during their terrible time in hiding in Amsterdam. Miep Gies, a wonderful woman, was actually the person to pick up Anna Frank’s diary when they were caught and she gave it to Anna’s Father after she died. Miep Gies wrote her own memoirs in a book called Anne Frank Remembered which is well worth reading. Published in 1947, the Diary of Anne Frank became the best-selling non-fiction book in the world for reasons we can all understand. I mourn Miep Gies’ death of course as I have always admired her courage.
Miep Gies, the Dutch lady who cared for the Franks and their friends during their hide away during the 2nd world war, and who became the guardian of Anne Franks diary died on Monday 12th January, the same day as the Haitian earthquake, aged 100.

Another survivor of the Nazis and there are not many left, was Helen Lewis, who died just 3 days after Miep Gies on 15th January aged 93.
Helen Lewis, the dancer whose talent delivered her from almost certain death at a Nazi concentration camp died last week aged 93.

I read Helen’s amazing story in her book called “A time to speak” which I also highly recommend.
She was a dancer whose talent actually delivered her from almost certain death at Auschwitz. May she rest in peace and I say that from the bottom of my heart.

Now it’s time for a piece of good news in this blog post, something to cheer it up. So what better than a sports victory? You probably know I am sports’ enthusiast too so was very happy to hear that the bi world car rally champion, Carlos Sainz, has just won the Dakar Race and is the first Spaniard to do so. That is a great feat and another great sports victory for Spain. I’m happy for him and for this country of course.
The Spanish hero, Carlos Sainz, the first Spaniard to win the Dakar car race.
This week which for me has been dominated by the Haitian disaster otherwise went past in quite a routine way. I lost a crown in my mouth so will now be visiting the dentist to complete treatment for a new one. I ordered some more Emma Bridgewater pottery to increase my ever growing collection. Here you can see a couple of photos of what it looks like now. Actually I broke one of the mugs I just received and promptly ordered more. I am getting addicted. As a lot of EB fans say, “there is nothing nicer to eat off” and in part I agree.

My Emma Bridgewater collection as it looks now after the arrival of my new order. Lovely to eat off.
So what else did I do this week? I went into the office for a couple of meetings and work wise the beginning of this year seems to be a bit slow. I had lunch with my Events Agency team, Quinta Esencia at a new place in town called Castellana DF, thanks Bea, Cris, Gloria and Nuria. I also had lunch with my Press Tracking agency (thanks Víctor and Pedro) at one of my favourites near home, in Boadilla, called El Convento and with Suzy at El Buey. And yesterday Eladio and I had a nice quiet dinner at La Vaca Argentina. So, yeah, a lot of eating; ah but I’ve been careful and kept to my Up and Down diet which is working slowly but surely.

Finally and on another gastronomic note, I received this month's wine from my wine Club. I belong to Spain’s biggest one which is called Vino Selección and the wine I got this week is lovely. It’s called Idrias and is from the Somontano region, great. Every month there is a different collection of wine to order if you want.

And that is it for this week. Let’s hope that from now till next Sunday aid begins to get through and Haiti starts to emerge slowly from the worst catastrophe it has ever experienced and which has made such an emotional impact on me.

Until next week

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