Two natives of Waterford City were among 20 Irish citizens who miraculously all survived last week’s horrific earthquake in Haiti that has killed up to 200,000 people.
Maypark Lane man Paddy Doyle and Sharon Doyle (no relation) from Ballybricken were working in different parts of the Digicell building in the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince.
Paddy, 29, contacted his sister Karen early the next morning to let them know he was safe and well. She quickly gave the good news to their parents Pat and Mary Ann, who’d been alarmed to wake up to the breaking news.
An employee of Irish company taxback.com for over three years, Paddy only returned to his job as manager of the company’s new Haitian office a few days previously following a Christmas break back home.
He was just finishing a meeting on the top floor when the seven-magnitude quake struck, but by the grace of God everyone in what is the city’s tallest building escaped unharmed – including Sharon, 36, who, like Paddy, is now in Jamaica helping the aid effort.
She’d only returned the day before after a trip home to receive her Business and Finance Degree at WIT. Sharon has worked as an accountant with Recognaissance Group in Haiti since last April. Her mother Jean, who has been in touch by text and email, is also counting her daughter’s blessings.
Paddy, who has since spoken to his mum, is unable to adequately describe the carnage he first saw on emerging into the daylight; “it was like the end of the world,” said the ex-soldier, who’ll be 30 on Friday. The aftershocks and the agony of the bereaved and injured have been extremely difficult to handle, he admits.
Just a month before Christmas, businessman Denis O’Brien visited taxback.com’s new call centre in the HQ of Digicell, of which O’Brien is CEO. Fortunately the 11-storey tower was one of the few buildings least affected thanks to its earthquake-proof design, something the Cork tycoon had personally insisted upon.
At the offices’ opening Paddy had said prophetically: “This is a time of great change and growth here. There is a future for Haiti. Of that I am sure.”
Aoife Tynan from St Alphonsus Road in Waterford was on the Caribbean island two months ago as a volunteer with charity, The Haven Partnership, during ‘Build-it-Week’.
Infrastructure was already horrendous there, she said, with the hurricanes of 2008 having ravaged a third-world nation already on its knees. “Nothing can prepare you for the grinding poverty”, said Aoife, who lives in South Kilkenny.
Unable to comprehend how the country – the poorest in the western world – can possibly cope with what’s happened, she has urged people here to make donations to the various aid organisations, assuring them that monies do end up in the right hands.
Paddy, who is looking forward to coming home, hopefully this week, has also asked people to donate to groups like Goal, Concern, Soul of Haiti and Haven.