Outpouring of grief and help for Haiti

Station manager Ricot Dupuy talks to a caller at Radio Soleil, a radio station and internet broadcast that informs the Haitian community in the United States and beyond, in the Brooklyn borough of New York Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, in the wake of a massive earthquake in Haiti earlier Tuesday. The station is an important source for Haitians trying to learn anything they can about the crisis in their homeland. ( (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle))

January 13, 2010 9:57:51 PM PST
New York's mayor is urging the world to come to Haiti's aid, just as it did for the city after 9/11. Haitian-American New Yorkers tried frantically Wednesday to get through to their homeland and learn whether loved ones had survived the powerful earthquake that shook the Caribbean nation.

At the Haitian Consulate in Manhattan, diplomats struggling to locate their own families sobbed as they tried to help countless callers.

"It is indescribable," said counsel general Felix Augustin. "Port-au-Prince is flattened. The hospitals are gone."

The Consulate has arranged free flights with American Airlines and Jet Blue to fly a contingency of doctors to Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian Medical Association has enlisted 40 doctors so far.

They're working to send two planes full of medical professionals, medications and water supplies to Haiti as soon as possible.

"Jet Blue was ready to go this afternoon. It is because of the logistics. Because the thing happened only yesterday, they were not ready. So now they're trying to pile up some of the things that they need," Augustin said.

And human kindness is kicking in too. Strangers are walking into the Haitian Consolate to find out how to help.

"They're human and we're human. That's what our organization is about," said Supreme Allah of Setting the Standards Auto Club

Supreme Allah wanted to send donations as early as today.

"We're planning to bring food water, even toys for the kids," Allah said.

But relief efforts are not only about what you can box up and put on a plane.

"We're reaching out to the religious community -- Catholic, Rabbi, Chaplain -- everyone to reach out to us," Rev. Daniel Ulysee said.

Chaplains have been at the Consulate all day, providing spiritual counseling during this chaotic time of loss.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged assistance and suggested residents donate money to established organizations rather than try to send supplies like food and water to a place that does not have the infrastructure to distribute them.

"We saw the world come to our aid back on 9/11," he said, and now New York wants to "make sure that the world comes to the aid of the Haitian people."

According to census estimates, there are about 232,000 people of Haitian origin in the New York City area, including northern New Jersey and Long Island. There are about 122,000 in the city alone.