Students fear for loved ones in Haiti earthquake

Teresa Gutierrez is worried about her friends.It has been three days since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the small island nation of Haiti on Tuesday, and she hasn’t heard from them yet. Although her friends were in her home country, the Dominican Republic, at the time, they had friends and family back in Haiti.”Today I hope to try and call them,” she said.No substantial damage has been reported from the Dominican Republic, even though it and Haiti share the same island. The latter, though, was flattened. Gutierrez said she thinks this discrepancy in damage is due to the geographical differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. While the Dominican Republic has many mountains and lush foliage, Gutierrez said Haiti is comparatively flat and desolate.Gutierrez said her biggest concern comes from her knowledge of Haiti before the earthquake. Before coming to USU, Gutierrez was a teacher in the Dominican Republic and would go with groups of high school students on class trips to Haiti. The experience was a sobering one for all of them, she said, with many students so affected by the poverty they saw that they gave the very shirt off their backs.According to statistics from the CIA, 80 percent of Haitians are at or well below the poverty level. To compare, the same statistics list the poverty rate in the Dominican Republic at 42 percent and 12 percent in the U.S. Gutierrez said many of the houses were made of nothing but mud walls with dirt floors, and people were often so desperate for food that they ate cakes of mud mixed with butter. Dirt roads zigzag across the country, but street signs are nowhere to be found, she said, making getting lost a near certainty. The only pavement she ever saw in Haiti was a small strip outside the president’s palace. However, the building was leveled in the quake, as well as the President Rene Preval’s personal home, leaving even the leader of the impoverished nation homeless.

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