Retired FSO David Lindwall Remembers the Haiti Earthquake of January 12, 2010 (Excerpt Via FSJ)

 

David Lindwall is a retired FSO who was serving as deputy chief of mission in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake and for the first 18 months of earthquake relief and reconstruction programs. His other posts included Colombia, Spain, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sweden, as well as assignments in Washington, D.C. Excerpt below is from A Night to Remember, Foreign Service Journal, Jan/Feb 2020 where he shares his record of the first hours of the Haiti earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010:

Three embassy houses on a ridgeline had collapsed and slid down the hill. Our human rights officer and her husband and the noncommissioned officer from the defense attaché’s office were trapped in the rubble. Their neighbor, Security Officer Pete Kolshorn, and a couple of Haitian guards worked tirelessly into the night to rescue them. With violent aftershocks rearranging the rubble every 15 minutes, the rescue operation put the rescuers’ own lives at risk. But they persisted and got their injured comrades up to the top of the ridgeline. All three had broken bones and open wounds. During the two hours it took to get them out of the rubble, we sent a scout to the three hospitals in town. All three were overwhelmed and would not even open their gates to us.

A Haitian doctor who lived nearby gave initial attention to our three wounded colleagues and helped Kolshorn move them several blocks through rubble to the main street. An embassy roving patrol vehicle that had been trapped up in the highlands managed to meet the party on the other side of the rubble. The Haitian doctor advised moving them to the clinic of a plastic surgeon he knew in Petionville. It wasn’t ideal, but it was our only choice. The doctor asked us to send oxygen tanks because one of the male patients had a collapsed lung.

In the expectation that one of our drivers would find a way through the rubble that separated the embassy from Petionville, I asked Dr. Steve Harris, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Port-au-Prince who had set up a provisional hospital in the embassy’s health unit, to get me all the oxygen, morphine and casting supplies he could spare. There were only two tanks of oxygen. That would not be enough to keep the male patient alive, the Haitian doctor told me; but it was all we had, and we dispatched the driver with the supplies.

Through the night more and more wounded came to the embassy looking for help. One of the ambassador’s bodyguards with open wounds and broken bones came carrying his infant son who had multiple fractures. His wife and other children had all been killed when their house collapsed.

By midnight we still had not located a large number of embassy personnel. With so many streets blocked by rubble, it was a real challenge to reach them. Assistant RSO Rob Little offered to take his motorcycle and go looking house by house. Rob knew Port-au-Prince better than any of us, and at 6 foot 6, he was intimidated by nothing. For the next two hours he drove around the neighborhoods where embassy people lived, assembling them in areas where they could be picked up by our vans as soon as the roads were cleared. Some of the embassy homes had been completely destroyed, but their occupants were miraculously spared. Several officers sustained injuries that were not life-threatening, but required evacuation as soon as we could get flights in the next days. For those huddled together in the dark front yards of ruined houses waiting for an embassy van, it must have been a very long night

Read in full here: http://afsa.org/night-remember

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US Mission New Zealand: USS Sampson Supports Kaikoura Earthquake Relief Efforts

Posted: 1:55  am ET
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On November 13 we blogged that the US Embassy in Wellington issued an emergency message for New Zealand following a 7.8 earthquake and tsunami warning.  Citing New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, the USG said that there were 1,200 tourists in Kaikoura — a town of about 3,800 — when the earthquake struck. The tourist town has reportedly been completely cut off from the rest of the island due to landslides and flooding.

On November 15, the US Embassy’s updated message says to direct anyone with friends or family in Kaikoura to make their way to the Takahanga Marae Welfare Centre to register with the Red Cross to be on the evacuation list. On November 16, the amphibious sealift vessel HMNZS Canterbury evacuated around 450 people out of Kaikoura to Christchurch. The NZ Defence Force said that the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron evacuated another 60 people and delivered two tonnes of aid to Kaikoura, bringing to about 660 the total number of people evacuated from the quake-damaged town.  Surveillance aircraft from the United States Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force also conducted surveys of quake-damaged areas, focusing particular attention on inland and railway routes.

Ships from Australia, Japan, Canada, Singapore including the the United States’ USS Sampson were already traveling to New Zealand to take part in the International Naval Review to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy. When the earthquake struck, the ships were diverted from the planned celebration to assist in humanitarian efforts.

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US Embassy Wellington Issues 7.8 Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Message For New Zealand

Posted: 5:19 pm PT
Updated: 10:25 pm PT to include the ambassador’s statement
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On November 14, the US Embassy in Wellington issued the following Security Message for U.S. citizens traveling or residing in New Zealand:

The U.S. Geological Service has reported a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in North Canterbury, New Zealand on the South Island in the early hours of Monday morning.  Its epicenter was 15 km north-east of Culverden, close to Hanmer Springs, at 12:02 AM local time.  Military helicopters have been dispatched to the town of Kaikoura on the east coast to assess the damage and help those worst hit.  Prime Minister John Key has confirmed that there have been two fatalities.  Wellington City Council has asked workers based in the city center to stay home today “owing to potential damage to buildings and disruptions to public transport”.

At 8:13 AM, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management announced a tsunami marine and beach threat from Napier to north of Dunedin, Cook Straight coastal areas, and The Chatham Islands.  The threat for all other regions has been lifted.  All previous threat regions will experience unusually strong currents for some time.  Areas under ‘Marine and Beach Threat’ can expect unusually strong currents and unpredictable water flows near the shore.  This means a threat to beach, harbor, estuary, and small boat activities.  The severity of currents and changing water flows will vary within a particular coastal area and over the period this warning is in effect.  People in Napier to north of Dunedin, Cook Straight coastal areas, and The Chatham Islands areas should:

  1. Stay out of the water (sea, rivers, and estuaries, including boating activities).
  2. Stay off beaches and shore areas.
  3. Do not go sightseeing.
  4. Share this information with family, neighbors, and friends.
  5. Listen to the radio and/or TV for updates.
  6. Follow instructions of local civil defense authorities.
  7. If beach threat is forecasted for your area, take appropriate evasive action.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in New Zealand enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov/step.  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.

U.S. Ambassador Gilbert said that USG employees are all accounted for but they are still trying to locate those who are on vacation.

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7.8 Earthquake Hits Ecuador, Casualties Expected to Rise

Posted: 1:41 am ET
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USAID is reportedly seeking airlift bids to the Ecuador earthquake zone before midnight last night. We have yet to see any formal announcement from USAID or from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. USAID’S field office in Ecuador was shut down in October 2014 after over 50 years of operation in the country.  The government in Quito had refused to allow USAID to renew its programs or start any new activity in the country.

 

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USG Supports Japan Relief Efforts Following Kyushu Earthquakes, Also What’s This Mystery Foam?

Posted: 12:02 am ET
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USGC reported the April 14 and 15 earthquakes that hit the island of Kyushu:

The April 15, 2016 M 7.0 earthquake north of Kumamoto, on the island of Kyushu in southwest Japan, occurred as the result of strike-slip faulting at shallow depth. Focal mechanisms for the earthquake indicate slip occurred on either a left-lateral fault striking to the northwest, or on a right-lateral fault striking northeast. While the earthquake occurred several hundred kilometers northwest of the Ryukyu Trench, where the Philippine Sea plate begins its northwestward subduction beneath Japan and the Eurasia plate, the shallow depth and faulting mechanism of this earthquake indicate it occurred on a crustal fault within the upper Eurasia plate. At the location of this event, the Philippine Sea plate converges with Eurasia towards the northwest at a velocity of 58 mm/yr.

The April 15, 2016, M 7.0 event (UTC 16:25:06) occurred one day after a series of foreshocks in the same region, which included M 6.2 and M 6.0 earthquakes. The April 14 events resulted in at least 9 fatalities and over 800 injuries.

According to the US Consulate in Fukuoka which covers the consular district, the Kyushu/Yamaguchi Region of southwestern Japan consists of seven prefectures on Kyushu Island (Fukuoka, Oita, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kagoshima) and Yamaguchi prefecture on the southern tip of Honshu, with a combined population of over 15 million. The region’s $435 billion economy constitutes Japan’s fourth largest economic center, representing about 10 percent of national GDP – comparable in size to the Netherlands.

The US Embassy in Tokyo issued one Emergency Message to U.S. citizens saying in part that “Kumamoto is approximately 730 miles southwest of Tokyo. Authorities report nine confirmed deaths and as many as 1,000 injured. Local authorities report no U.S. citizens among the casualties. No tsunami warning was issued. The Japan Meteorological Agency reported several aftershocks, some of which exceeded 5.0 magnitude. Aftershocks may continue for up to a week. Heavy rains are expected in the region over the coming weekend, which may lead to landslides.”

U.S. Forces Japan announced that the Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, over the weekend to assist with recovery efforts in support of the Government of Japan’s relief efforts. According to the DOD release, the U.S. military support is provided at the request of the Government of Japan and is in support of efforts undertaken by the Japanese Self Defense Force.

Japan Times reported that a cabinet secretary said there [are] no abnormalities at nearby nuclear facilities. The epicenter was 120 km (74 miles) northeast of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, the only one operating in the country.  The Asahi Shimbun quotes Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying, “Under the current circumstances, there is no need to stop the plant because (the shaking) is sufficiently low.”

Meanwhile, in Fukuoka, motorists and pedestrians have reported seeing white foam on the streets after the quakes:

 

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