Capt. Derrick Chapman, left, checks firefighters boarding a bus as members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Task Force 2 Search and Rescue team prepare leave for Haiti to help in that country's devastating earthquake, at the department's facility at Whiteman Air Park in Los Angeles Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
The founder of a Berkeley-based foundation that has provided food to children in Haiti for the past decade is helping to organize relief efforts for victims of a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck just outside Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.
Margaret Trost, founder of the What If? Foundation, said a program liaison is flying to Haiti today with a group from the Illinois-based Zakat Foundation with a cargo of food, water and health supplies.
Since 2000, the What If? Foundation has provided meals to impoverished children and adults at St. Clare's Church in Port-au-Prince. As of this month, the foundation was providing up to 1,500 meals per day.
Port-au-Prince, the country's capital, was devastated by the earthquake and its aftershocks. Numerous buildings collapsed and the number of deaths is estimated to be at least in the tens of thousands.
Trost said this morning she had just learned that the coordinator of the foundation's food program in Port-au-Prince had survived, but she did not know the status of many of the program's assistants and recipients.
She said media footage of the devastation is hard to watch.
"Part of me doesn't even want to watch, I just want to have hope that the people we work with are alive and buildings are still standing, but I've seen enough to know the damage is catastrophic," Trost said.
Trost said the infrastructure in Port-au-Prince was already weak before the quake.
"We're talking about cinderblock homes without a foundation, that are kind of pieced together with granular concrete by hand," she said. "These homes were very fragile."
Trost said that one of the more startling images she saw was of the presidential palace, which collapsed in the earthquake.
"When you think about the palace, which I'm sure was built solidly, and compare it to all those people in those homes, I just think about all the children, and if they're alive," she said.
The monetary cost of the earthquake is likely in the range of billions of dollars, said Kate Stillwell of Eqecat, an Oakland-based risk-modeling firm that estimates damage caused by catastrophes. That estimate includes both the physical damage to the country and its infrastructure, and the cost of aid for all the people displaced and wounded, she said.
However, Stillwell pointed out that the estimate could change because much remains unknown about the quake's aftermath, including how many buildings were damaged and how many people were affected.
Many nonprofits, including the What If? Foundation, have set up earthquake relief funds. To donate to the What If? Foundation, visit its Web site at http://whatiffoundation.org/donate.
The American Red Cross is accepting donations by phone at (800) RED-CROSS, or (800) 733-2767, and through its Web site at www.redcross.org.
Donors can also send a $10 donation to the Red Cross by texting "Haiti" to 90999.
Bay City News