Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Belfast Black Santa appeal for Haiti quake survivors

Dean Houston McKelvey
Dean Houston McKelvey has started an appeal for the Haiti quake victims

Six years on from the Indian Ocean tsunami the people of Belfast are again being asked to help the victims of a natural disaster half a world away.

Dean of St Anne's Cathedral Houston McKelvey has restarted the Black Santa Appeal to help people in Haiti.

Tens of thousands of people are feared dead in the shantytowns of Port-au-Prince, the country's capital.

Dean McKelvey said no-one watching the television scenes of the tragedy could remain unmoved.

"It is another natural disaster, which reminds us of the power of nature and the terrible effect it can have on an area with unstable tectonic plates," he said.

"The scenes of the shanties collapsing were terrible."

Normally held in the run up to Christmas, the last time the Black Santa appeal was extended was in 2004, when it raised £1.6m for the tsunami victims.

The 7.0-magnitude quake, Haiti's worst in two centuries, struck on Tuesday, just 15km (10 miles) south-west of Port-au-Prince and close to the surface.

Dean McKelvey said that developing countries found it harder to recover from natural disasters and that they would work with Christian charities and international relief agencies to help distribute aid.

He said he had been contacted by people who wanted to use the cathedral as a means to help.

"I think it will be a bit different from the tsunami appeal, people had visited Thailand and Sri Lanka on holidays," he said.

"When we were collecting for that disaster people would tell us about their trips to south east Asia.

"Because of the political situation, and the general state of the country in the past I don't believe we will be getting that this time."

There will be no sit-out, however, with the assistants to the dean during the fundraising effort having returned to their parish duties.

The barrel for donations will remain inside the front door of the cathedral and cathedral stewards and staff will welcome visitors making donations.

The Christmas sit out this year raised just over £250,000 for local charities.

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