T.O. team of emergency relief workers head to Haiti
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2010 7:58PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:42AM EDT
Five volunteer emergency aid workers from Toronto are preparing to travel to Haiti to assist with relief efforts after the impoverished country was devastated by an earthquake Tuesday.
One small piece of equipment could pay big dividends in keeping people alive -- a suitcase-sized water purifier.
"It'll pump up through and go through a sediment filter," Rahul Singh of Global Medic told CTV Toronto on Wednesday. "Then we heat up an ultraviolet light, it zaps the DNA, and out comes four litres a minute of clean water."
That's enough to provide potable water for 1,000 people per day, he said.
Early reports from the region suggest thousands have been killed as numerous buildings in the country's capital Port-au-Prince collapsed into a heap of rubble. The earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, is said to be the worst to hit the region in the last two centuries.
Global Medic, a non-profit disaster response organization, is sending the five to Haiti Thursday morning with a truckload of relief supplies.
"The team will focus on restoring access to clean drinking through the provision of water purification units, as well as restoring medical infrastructure through the use of a 22 ft x 42 ft inflatable field hospital," the organization said in a news release Wednesday morning.
"On an average day, we can see 1,100 patients in this," Singh said of the field hospital, adding they once treated almost 3,000 patients.
Matt Capobianco, manager of emergency programs for Global Medic, said that the group will be in Haiti for 14 days.
"The reason we're in there for such a short time is we train local teams on how to use all of our gear," he told ctvtoronto.ca. "We run it side by side with them for two weeks and then donate it to them so that they can continue to operate the equipment for as long as necessary."
Capobianco said he and the charity's director Singh put out a call to their list of volunteers Tuesday night to recruit people for the relief mission. Within a few hours they had 40 people offer to go to the quake-stricken region.
There are about 500 trained people who work with Global Medic. Most are either paramedics, police officers, firefighters or engineers, Capobianco said.
The Global Medic team is set to leave on the 6 a.m. flight Thursday out of Pearson.
Capobianco said he hopes to have his team set up and providing clean drinking water to Haitians within hours of landing.
"We need to determine which areas have been hardest hit, where we need to be and what is most accessible," he said.
This isn't the first time Global Medic has responded to a disaster in Haiti. A team was sent there in 2008 after the region was devastated by Hurricane Ike.
Global Medic is one of many relief organizations based in Toronto that are deploying a team to the disaster zone.
Canadian governments have also stepped in with offers of sympathy and support. Ontario is home to 9,095 Haitians, with 2,150 of them living in Toronto, according to the 2006 census.
Toronto Mayor David Miller said he has contacted the honourary Haitian Consul General in Toronto and the city's Office of Emergency Management to determine how Torontonians can best assist. Miller said he has also offered the help of the city's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team if needed.
"Toronto is proudly home to thousands of Haitian-Canadians and this is one of the many communities that make up Toronto's culturally rich mosaic so when tragedies like this occur, it resonates across our city," Miller said in a statement released to the media.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he feels a "sense of responsibility" to help Haiti get back on its feet.
He said the province will help get reconstruction efforts off the ground to help get health care and things like electricity back up and running in devastated regions as soon as possible.
Canadians who have families in Haiti can call the emergency hotline at Foreign Affairs at 1-800-387-3124 or can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman