Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Group to prepare for trip to Haiti

LOGISTICS One Taiwanese rescue team already in the Dominican Republic was held up for days as it sought to fly into Haiti. The team will proceed by land instead

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS, WITH CNA

Embassy staff pose for a photo after raising the national flag at the temporary office of Taiwan’s embassy in Haiti yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

The Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps had by yesterday organized a team of 60 medical personnel and volunteers to deliver medical help in Haiti, the organization’s president, Liu Chi-chun (劉啟群), said yesterday.

The team is scheduled to depart for Haiti on Tuesday.

“We at the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps have conducted visits to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to provide free medical services at least five times before,” he said. “We hope to drive over land to Haiti from the Dominican Republic as soon as possible, as we are familiar with the roads.”

The organization has been preparing medical supplies for its relief effort, which Liu said would hopefully be larger in scale than resources allowed after the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, when a 51-person team delivered 2,600kg in medical supplies.

Meanwhile, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Lyu-hsun (沈呂巡) yesterday said the first Taiwanese rescue team of 23 people, which left on Tuesday night, had been forced to wait a few days in the Dominican Republic before proceeding to Haiti.

“The current situation in Haiti is very serious and the airport in Port-au-Prince is barely functioning,” Shen said on the sidelines of a ceremony marking the inauguration of the World Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in Taipei. “It’s very difficult for planes to land and those that can land are unable to take off again because they don’t have fuel.”

“The flight clearance [for the Taiwanese rescue team] was postponed time and again. We initially expected it to arrive in Haiti early [Friday] morning, but then it was put off,” he said.

Getting to Haiti was “the biggest difficulty,” he said.

Later yesterday it was confirmed that the team would proceed to Haiti by land.

Lin Chien-chih (林謙志), the rescue team’s leader, said in a news clip broadcast by SET-TV yesterday that his team hoped to reach Haiti by land, although it had safety concerns given the risk of looting and the value of the supplies they were transporting.

In addition to Lin’s team, a rescue team of 33 professional rescuers, firefighters and military medical workers sent by the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China, the Taipei City Fire Department and Taipei Tri-Service General Hospital, took off from Taipei late last night.

More than 5,000kg of equipment and medical supplies were shipped to Haiti as well, said Steven Chen (陳士魁), secretary-general of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China.

Shen also praised overseas Taiwanese businesspeople for helping rescue Taiwan’s injured ambassador and another official in Haiti after this week’s devastating earthquake.

“We extend our appreciation to Taiwanese businesspeople based in the Dominican Republic who helped charter a small plane that successfully landed in Port-au-Prince and picked up Ambassador Hsu Mien-sheng [徐勉生]. Fortunately, X-rays showed that Hsu does not have any broken bones, despite being buried in rubble for six hours,” Shen said, adding that Hsu is now in hospital and insists on returning to Haiti after finishing a 48-hour observation period.

The plane took Hsu and Consul Chi Wang-the (齊王德), who sustained a serious head injury, to the Dominican Republic for treatment.

On Taiwan’s collapsed embassy building in Haiti, Shen said that “the embassy still exists.”

“We are now using a Taiwanese businessman’s local office [as an embassy] and are flying the national flag there and continuing our services,” he said.

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