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16 Jan, 2010 16:00

Haitians abroad pray, mourn the dead

The UN has appealed for more than $US 500 million to help victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The organization says the funds are intended to help three million people over the next few months.

Much of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince still lies in ruins – with no means of communication, as well as a critical lack of food, water and medical supplies. The island's small international airport remains the only entry point for foreign aid, and planes are struggling for space.

According to estimates, 50,000 to 200,000 people died in the quake and some 3 million lost their homes.

International relief crews are in the area, including a Russian rescue squad, while the US is sending up to 10,000 troops to assist. Aid groups say it's now a race against time to find survivors trapped under the rubble.

Their efforts are being hampered by criminal gangs and looters, making it difficult to operate on the ground.

Marcelo Sanchez, a correspondent from RT's Spanish-language sister channel who is in Haiti says there is still a lack of medical help on the island.

“We found people trapped in debris, their families are asking for help, showing pictures of their loved ones right outside where they are buried, still alive. We could actually hear their voices, they are screaming out their names or asking for water,” Sanchez said.

For Haitians living abroad, their sense of helplessness is compounded by a desperate lack of information about loved ones.

There are over 300,000 Haitians living in Miami, the majority in the area known as Little Haiti. Some have been able to contact their families on the island but others have not been so fortunate. The lack of information has driven many to desperation.

Marie Patricia Charles, a Haitian living in Miami, says it’s been enormously difficult to have no information about her sons.

“I don't have the strength to suppress this pain,” Charles told RT. “If you only have two children and you don't know where they are, it's terrible. I don't have legal documents to travel to my country.”

In absence of any other means of help, the Haitian community in Miami is looking to God for hope. Some are gathering goods to send to Haiti, while others pray for those who are still alive.