A Waterford man was miraculously among 20 Irish citizens who thankfully all survived this week’s horrific earthquake in Haiti which may have killed as many as 100,000 people.
Paddy Doyle from Waterford City – who has worked for Irish company taxback.com in the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince for over three years – contacted his family early on Wednesday morning to let them know he was safe and well.
The 29-year-old is manager of the company’s new Haiti office. He’d only returned there in the previous few days after a Christmas break back home.
“I could hear him say he was safe, he was uninjured and ‘I love you’,” said Paddy’s sister Karen, who received a voice message early on Wednesday morning. Her brother was just finishing work when the earthquake hit the night before, but by the grace of God he and his colleagues escaped unharmed.
Karen quickly gave the good news to their parents Pat and Mary-Anne, Dunmore Road, who’d been alarmed to wake up to the breaking news.
The family are anxiously waiting to hear more from Paddy but phone networks and other communications networks in Haiti have been disabled.
Just a month before Christmas, businessman Denis O’Brien travelled to the Haitian capital to visit the new call centre which taxback.com – owned by Irish entrepreneur of the year, Kilkenny man Terry Clune – opened in the head offices of Digicell, of which O’Brien is CEO. Fortunately it was one of the few buildings least affected thanks to its earthquake-proof design, something the Cork tycoon had personally insisted upon.
“It is fantastic what has been achieved here in just a few short weeks”, Paddy said of the new job-creation project at the time. The majority of Haitians live on less than $1 per day; unemployment is close to 80 percent; and more than half the 9-million population is under 21.
“I hope that other companies can see what amazing and intelligent people the Haitians truly are,” he enthused. “This is a time of great change and growth here. There is a future for Haiti. Of that I am sure,” he added prophetically.
The full extent of the devastation caused by the seven-magnitude quake and several strong aftershocks (which themselves measured 5.9 on the Richter scale) became apparent yesterday.
Being a mere 10 miles from the epicentre, Port Au-Prince has suffered widespread damage with hospitals, hotels, the presidential palace and even the air-traffic control tower at the airport said to have collapsed. The UN headquarters was also levelled.
Aoife Tynan from St Alphonsus Road in Waterford only returned from the Caribbean island two months ago having worked there 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”, an emotional Aoife, who lives in South Kilkenny, told WLRfm’s ‘Deise AM’ programme.
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 efforts, assuring them that monies do end up in the right hands. (See havenpartnership.com)