Locally-based relief organizations and companies are part of wide-ranging Pacific Northwest aid response to the deadly earthquake in Haiti.
Within the next several days, orthopedic surgeon Lew Zirkle of Richland will head for Haiti, where Tuesday’s massive earthquake has created a desperate demand for his low-tech system to treat compound fractures — one that does not depend on a constant supply of power or sophisticated X-ray equipment.
Zirkle has not been able to find a hospital left standing, so he is setting up a surgical center in four classrooms of a burn clinic.
“I’ve got 50 people with open fractures, already there at the clinic and waiting,” said Zirkle, who is founder of the nonprofit medical technology organization SIGN.
Zirkle, who is still seeking anesthesiologists to join him in Haiti, is part of a wide-ranging Pacific Northwest aid response to the earthquake that, according to some initial estimates, has caused tens of thousands of deaths.
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Though the Northwest lacks a large Haitian population, the region is home to international aid agencies with ties to Haiti.
Two Washington-based organizations have supported long-term development programs in Haiti, which ranks as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Federal Way-based World Vision has more than 370 staff in Haiti, while Seattle-based World Concern has more than 100.
Officials at both organizations have struggled to communicate with their Haiti-based employees as they deploy senior staff to organize the relief effort.
The epicenter of the earthquake was near Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. But serious damage also has been reported in the southern city of Les Cayes, where most people slept outside the night after the earthquake.
“Our house has fallen in Les Cayes,” wrote Pierre Duclona, World Concern’s program director in the south of Haiti in an e-mail on Wednesday. “I’m alone at the office to inform you.”
World Vision officials say that downed communications, blocked roads and aftershocks slowed early relief efforts. Staff members in Port-au-Prince were unable to leave the office for several hours after the quake because of roadway debris.
“It felt as if a truck had hit a wall,” said World Vision’s Magalie Boyer, describing the initial tremor in a statement released by the aid organization. “There is extensive damage in the city. People are getting ready to spend the night in the streets. They are not comfortable staying in their houses.”
World Vision plans to distribute first-aid kits, along with basic materials such as soap, blankets, clothes and water in the early aid response.
Medical Teams International, with offices in Oregon and Washington, has helped organize a regional response of doctors.
That effort includes Zirkle, whose nonprofit SIGN has helped train doctors in more than 45 countries in surgical techniques that use metal rods and screws.
Zirkle has worked twice before in Haiti. But the hospital where he trained doctors was destroyed by the earthquake.
International Medical Teams also is organizing other Northwest doctors to aid earthquake victims. They include Dan Diamond, a Bremerton physician who led Medical Teams’ response to Hurricane Katrina and Joe Markee, a Vancouver, Wash.-based doctor who operates a clinic in Gonavies, Haiti.
Markee said that Gonaives was not severely damaged by the earthquake. His team will be shifting medical supplies from the clinic there to Port-au-Prince.
Trilogy Partners, a Bellevue wireless company, is also part of the relief effort. The company’s Haitian wireless operation, Voilà, has some 500 employees and serves more than a million people in that nation. Members of a company crisis task force landed Wednesday morning in Port-au-Prince.
The earthquake wiped out much of the infrastructure in the most densely populated part of the country. Trilogy’s local team could travel only by foot because roads were so heavily damaged. But the team determined its buildings were intact.
“We have restarted our generators at the main switch and are in the process of bringing our network back up,” the company said in a statement. “Once this has occurred, we will be focused on managing traffic and adding traffic as rapidly as possible to aid the humanitarian efforts in Haiti.”
In Bellevue, Jim Manis at the Mobile Giving Foundation — a nonprofit that helps other nonprofit organizations receive donations through text messaging campaigns — quickly rolled into action.
People can text a keyword to a designated short code and make a donation of $5 or $10 to any of several organizations working to help Haiti.
The Mobile Giving Foundation on Wednesday reported raising more than $375,000.
Portland-based Mercy Corps is also raising funds for the Haitian relief effort and sending staff to that nation.
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or firstname.lastname@example.org Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim contributed to this report.