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Haitians in Miami anxiously await news from home

A group of parishioners hold a prayer service in Notre Dame d"Haiti Catholic Church  in Miami on 13 January
Some Haitians have found solace in church as they await news

Ever since the earth shook in Port-au-Prince on Monday afternoon, the Little Haiti neighbourhood in Miami has been brimming with concern for loved ones.

At least 300,000 Haitians are thought to live in the South Florida area and many of those are struggling to know what happened to their relatives back home.

"I can't find my father or my sister. I don't know if they are in the street, or under a roof... My body is in Miami but my mind is in Haiti," Fletcher Toussaint, a young immigrant, told the BBC.

Mauve Renaud, a poet of Haitian origin, has not left her computer since Monday, checking social media websites to find news about her cousins.

Garuady Laguerre
It will...be vital that, when we overcome this crisis, Haiti has the leadership and the vision to avoid this lack of infrastructure and aid networks
Garaudy Laguerre
Haitian political scientist

"They work close to the National Palace, which collapsed. Normally they would be online all the time, but I haven't yet talked to them", she told the BBC.

"I don't know how or where they are".

The fact that Miami is just 1,000km (681 miles) from the Haitian capital puts it in a key location for the international aid operation.

"Miami is like an entrance door from Haiti into the US, so it will probably be the headquarters of the relief efforts", says Marie Woodson, a Miami-Dade council official.

It is from Miami that many of the planes loaded with humanitarian aid, rescue teams and medical equipment have taken off for Haiti.

The University of Miami has sent a team of doctors and nurses to Haiti and is expected to consider transferring some patients to South Florida hospitals.

Collection points

The local immigrant community has already turned the streets of Little Haiti into a collection centre for donations bound for the quake-stricken areas.

A group of men wait anxiously for news in the Little Haiti district of Miami
People in Little Haiti are trying to do what they can to help

Churches, barber shops and small shops in the neighbourhood in the north of Miami have opened their doors to receive contributions.

Some of them have moved their TV sets outside for passers-by to keep updated with news from Haiti.

Given the scale of the disasters, the US government announced on Wednesday that it had suspended all deportations of undocumented migrants from Haiti.

Concern for the country's future once the immediate relief efforts are over remains deep.

"We know that all this help is important," says Garaudy Laguerre, a political scientist from Haiti who was visiting Miami when the quake struck.

"But it will also be vital that, when we overcome this crisis, Haiti has the leadership and the vision to avoid this lack of infrastructure and aid networks," he adds.



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