Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola, Haiti is on the western half and the Dominican Republic is on the eastern half.
Haiti has had a very chequered history of political turmoil. It was colonised by the Spanish in the fourteen hundreds and went on to be a slave colony in the fifteen hundreds. Various colonial powers occupied Haiti until the Haitian revolution in the late seventeen hundreds. Independence was granted in the early eighteen hundreds. It was at this point that the name Haiti was officially used.
Since then the company has also been occupied by America until the early nineteen hundreds. The Americans eventually left, leaving the country in a much worse state than it was before the occupation.
Haiti has the dubious distinction of being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. East Timor is its eastern counterpart.
I have the distinct please of being acquainted with one of the men who was one the Rescue SA team. For the sake of privacy, I am going to refer to him as X.
X was one of the team leaders of a team of four tasked with recovering as many live bodies as possible in the recent rescue mission to Haiti by a group of South Africans called Rescue SA.
Rescue SA was funded by Netcare, Vodacom and the South Africa government. The total amount of money provided by these three was about R5 million, with Vodacom donating the bulk of the funds.
The team flew across in an old DC 9 piloted in relays by three pilot teams of two. They first went to France, then across to Brazil and then to the Dominican Republic, eventually landing in Haiti.
Upon landing in the Dominican Republic, the team had to wait for a place to park their plane as well as a landing slot. Only once the landing slot had been granted could the plane enter the country.
The first thing that struck X upon landing was the smell. The reason that the team were there was an earthquake that took place on the twelfth of January 2010. About one hundred and fifty thousand people were reported to have perished. However at last count the amount has risen to double that amount.
Many of the administrative buildings were demolished in the quake. The UN mission was the first place that Rescue SA was utilised to recover the approximately ninety UN representatives and their families.
X lead two rescue attempts where a nine hour and a six hour tunnelling session were required.
Upon arrival, X admitted that the team was not sure what to expect, but in typical South African style, quietly got on with the job. South African don’t give up easily and it was this quality that lead to the English team calling on their expertise on many occasions.
All in all there were teams from over one hundred and twenty countries that arrived as a massive combine United Nations effort. Teams included countries like America, Taiwan, Guatemala, France, Britain and of course South Africa.
In a future post I am going to include some of the images that X allowed me to have.