Haiti devastation worse than tsunami: Glenn Perry

Glenn Perry in Haiti. (DENNIS B MALLARI)

"If there is a hell on earth right now it's Haiti," says Dubai jazz singer and musician Glenn Perry. "The devastation over there is worse than the December 2004 tsunami."

Emirates Business told earlier how Perry planned to visit the earthquake-stricken country to help victims of the disaster. Now he has returned from his trip – and in this exclusive interview he describes the horrific scenes he witnessed during the five days he spent in the shattered capital, Port-au-Prince.

"Those people need help," he said. "The aid they are getting right now is just a trickle because the airport is closed as it has been damaged by the earthquake. However, much more needs to be done. They need food, water, medicine, houses and clothes – urgently. The aid agencies over there are doing an excellent job, given their limited resources, but Haiti needs more aid."

Perry flew from Dubai to New York and then took a flight to the Dominican Republic. From there he travelled for 11 hours by car to Haiti. He said he will never forget the sights that met his eyes when he reached Port-au-Prince, which bore the brunt of the earthquake.

"The area was totally flattened. There was just devastation everywhere. I have been to so many disaster areas but this was worse than the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. It was frightening to see what an earthquake of the scale of 7.0 on the Richter scale can do in a matter of seconds. There were hardly any buildings left standing or intact."

Perry, who had loaded his car with canned food, water and medicine, was mobbed by children and adults begging for supplies. They fought each other over the food and snatched it from his hands before he could pass it to them.

Many people have no houses and no food, and a stench hangs in the air in the unbearable heat. There are little or no sanitation facilities and no water to drink.

"Even though the government has done a good job of clearing away the bodies the fact remains that it will be months before they can get to those buried in the debris, so the stench will remain for some time," added Perry.

"What moved me the most was the plight of the children. The earthquake created so many orphans and it was heart-rending to see little children crying for food. In fight for food the children stand no chance and they are usually left hungry as they can't compete with adults."

In fact Perry was beaten up after he fed some people and another group demanded food – by then there was none left. The angry mob pushed him to the ground and punched and kicked him.

"I can understand their anger and desperation," he said. "They are only trying to survive." Perry made a few more trips to the Dominican Republic to load up his car with relief supplies and then distributed them in Haiti. However, he says the airport needs to be opened urgently so that much more aid can be flown in for people who need help urgently – and more volunteers like him can go there and help.

"The airport is damaged, there was no hospital in sight and aid agencies are treating the injured and sick in tents. Most of the people I met had either broken hands or legs or bandages on their faces due to the earthquake and the aftershocks that keep rocking the place.

"Even though the aftershocks are not as big as they were initially they are bad enough to cause mudslides which, in turn, injure more people." Perry was hit by one such mud and rockslide and landed up with a broken hand and leg. However, even more dangerous than the mudslides and the aftershocks were looters, he said.

"I heard the local prison was flattened during the earthquake and that as many as 40 prisoners escaped." He said that what people need most, apart from aid, was rehabilitation and homes.

He has written a song for Haiti called Because I Love You and is planning to release it on YouTube along with images of the victims.

He plans to hold a second concert for Haiti along with other local talent at Dubai's Ramada Continental Hotel on February 19. And he is planning a karaoke event to raise funds and awareness.

"I collected Dh15,000 from the earlier concert but sadly the response to the walkathon was not that good. However, I will not give up and I urge people to donate generously."

 

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