On Tuesday evening a massive earthquake measuring 7.0 magnitude on the richter scale struck western Haiti. While Haitian President René Préval has estimated the casualties at over 100,000, the International Red Cross thinks 45,000 to 50,000 people have died.
That number could potentially climb due to health and sanitation issues within Haiti. The country has become synonymous with epidemic disease over the years. With many hospitals either totally destroyed or without water and electricity, the population has no where to go to seek medical treatment.
The infrastructure in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, was notoriously fragile before the quake. In a country with a weak, almost non-existent central government, most buildings were not earthquake safe. The result has been blood-curdling footage of people trapped in collapsing houses and offices, and rubble crushing bystanders on the street. Let this be a lesson to those who think there is no place for federal regulations. A strong central government could not have prevented this earth quake, but Haiti could have been better prepared to deal with a disaster of this magnitude with increased regulation and a large federal workforce.
Government buildings - including Parliament and Haiti's Presidential Palace - were not spared by the quake. President Préval is currently homeless. Citizens of Port-au-Prince are erecting tent cities in public parks and soccer fields that resemble the refugee camps in the Sudan - no sanitation, no order and no safety.
Aid is beginning to trickle in from both neighboring countries and private sources. President Obama has taken a leadership position in offering and delivering help to the Haitian people. Obama has assigned former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to take control of the recovery and relief efforts there, though Obama's fast action has come under fire from the likes of Rush Limbaugh here at home.
Beware of e-mail scams taking advantage of American's big hearts and (comparatively) fat pocketbooks. There are already many scam organizations trying to take advantage of the plight of the Haitian people. Only donate to trusted organizations and don't be afraid to use Snopes to weed out the low-lifes.