YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia is sending a 52-strong rescue team to Haiti to join in the unfolding international relief effort in the Caribbean nation devastated by a catastrophic earthquake, a government official said on Thursday.
“The government of the Republic of Armenia has decided to provide assistance to Haiti, and on the order of the minister of emergency situations, a rescue team from the Armenian Rescue Service are now preparing to leave for Haiti,” Nikolay Grigorian, a spokesman for the service, was quoted by RFE/RL as saying.
“Our rescuers will fly to Moscow today and proceed, on a Russian Emergency Situations Ministry plane, to Haiti where they will take part in search and rescue operations,” Grigorian said. The Armenian rescuers will have search dogs and special equipment used in such operations, he said, adding that they will likely stay in Haiti for at least six days.
“The bitter truth is that people are happy even with the discovery of dead bodies. So it is very important for them to find their loved ones dead or alive,” added the official.
Tens of thousands of people are feared dead and many more believed to be still trapped alive in the rubble of the 7.0 magnitude quake that hit Haiti’s capital on Tuesday. News reports from Port-au-Prince spoke of people crying out from the rubble and others clawing at chunks of concrete with bare hands and battering at slabs of debris with sledgehammers to try to free those buried alive.
The first rescue teams from around the world reportedly arrived in Haiti on Thursday. “Having felt all this on our skin, we could not have stayed away from the international relief and rescue effort,” Grigorian said referring to the massive international aid that poured into Armenia following a similarly devastating earthquake that razed the country’s northern regions in December 1988.