Director general of the T&T Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Ramesh Lutchmedial is lucky to be alive, after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti on Tuesday. Lutchmedial, who is in Haiti for a Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System board meeting, arrived there on Tuesday from Miami, along with 16 representatives from other Caricom countries and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. He is the only representative from Trinidad. The death toll in the Caribbean's most impoverished nation could run into thousands. The earthquake was one of the largest ever to hit the area.
RIGHT: Ramesh Lutchmedial...lucky escape
According to reports, the tremor started around 4.53 pm on Tuesday, ten miles south-west of Port-au-Prince. Francis Regis, acting as director general of the CAA, said he spoke with Lutchmedial very briefly yesterday. "I have spoken to Mr Lutchmedial and he said he is okay and that the team is safe," he said. "At the time, there was very little communication, it was extremely limited." Regis could not say at what time the delegation arrived in Haiti from Miami, or if they were receiving food or water. He said they were scheduled to stay at the Caribe and the Montano hotels. However, they never made it. The hotels were badly damaged in the quake before they checked in. The representatives were expected to return to their countries on Saturday.
However, a source said that a bus was transporting the delegation from the airport to the hotel on Tuesday. The source added that the bus driver decided to take the team to his home after seeing the damage to the hotel. But, upon arriving at his home, he discovered that it, too, had been demolished, forcing the team to spend Tuesday night at a tennis court. Regis said he had heard that story, but poor communication prevented him from gathering more details from Lutchmedial. He added that arrangements had been made to send a relief flight into Haiti for the team. "At this point in time, we have made arrangements to send one of the relief flights into Haiti to get the team out," he said. Regis, however, could not say how soon it would be done. He said Lutchmedial's family had been contacted and assured of his safety.
In a brief telephone interview yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said sending an airplane in devastated Haiti to rescue the officials would be "like looking for a needle in a haystack." "Let's remain hopeful...It has been difficult to speak with them," she said. "I am concerned, but there are no communication lines to make contact. "I understand that Ramesh Lutchmedial is there but not knowing where to go and where to look will be difficult. "However, we will act in the best interest of these officials." While she did not rule out sending an airplane "when communication is made," Gopee-Scoon said Haiti would be like a virtual war zone.