Ma to deliver relief to quake-hit Haiti

HELP:A trip to the Dominican Republic was hastily added so the president could take aid and visit two envoys to Haiti who were injured in a horrific earthquake on Jan. 12

By Ko Shu-ling  /  Staff Reporter, with CNA, TaipeI, and Port-au-Prince

Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will visit Central America today, bringing more than 7 tonnes of aid for victims of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince earlier this month, a statement from the Presidential Office said yesterday.

The main purpose of Ma’s six-day visit is to attend the inauguration of Honduran president-elect Porfirio Lobo Sosa on Wednesday. A trip to the Dominican Republic on Thursday was added at the last minute so the president could show the nation’s support to the victims, it said.

During his short stay in the Dominican Republic, Ma is scheduled to meet Dominican President Leonel Fernandez Reyna to discuss assistance for Haiti.

Ma also intends to visit Ambassador to Haiti Hsu Mien-sheng (徐勉生) and Consul Chi Wang-teh (齊王德), both of whom are hospitalized in the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo, it said. They were sent there to receive medical attention after being dug out of debris in Port-au-Prince.

Ma will visit Central America from today through Saturday. Ma and the delegation are scheduled to make a one-night stopover in San Francisco before heading to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, and to make a short stopover in Los Angeles on the return trip, the office said.

During the stays in the US, Ma plans to meet US parliamentarians and local politicians to mend fences with Washington after the US beef controversy, it said.

Meanwhile, after refueling on US territory, a Taiwan Air Force C-130 transport plane was scheduled to arrive in Santo Domingo yesterday to unload relief supplies that will be transported by truck to Port-au-Prince, the Taiwanese embassy in the Dominican Republic said.

In related developments, three volunteers from the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation USA arrived in Haiti yesterday to assess the needs of earthquake victims in preparation for long-term aid and post-disaster reconstruction in the country.

Chen Chien (陳健), a volunteer from the foundation who traveled to Haiti from Miami via the Dominican Republic, said the organization’s headquarters in Taiwan assigned three volunteers in the US to travel to Haiti to assess the scale of the catastrophe and the needs of the victims.

As Master Cheng Yen (證嚴法師), the organization’s founder, sent the trio only on an appraisal visit to determine what the foundation can do to help, the trip was organized with the help of other Tzu Chi volunteers in the country instead of through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chen said.

The most urgent need for Haitian earthquake survivors is shelter, as the foundation’s short-term plan is to erect temporary housing and then select sites for the construction of permanent quake-resistant structures for the survivors in the mid and long-term, Chen said.

The organization has set up a relief supply warehouse in Santo Domingo to quickly deliver relief supplies to Haiti by land, as air and seaport operations in Haiti are still problematic, Chen said.

The foundation is delivering 35,000kg of instant rice to Haiti via the Dominican Republic, Chen added.