The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed condolences and solidarity with the people of Haiti after the earthquake there and has called for prompt support in the relief efforts.
The major earthquake that shook the island overnight has become yet another in a series of natural disasters to hit this already vulnerable nation, the poorest in the western hemisphere.
The temblor, which registered 7.3 on the Richter scale and struck the area in around the capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, 12 January, around 5pm, caused heavy damage knocking down buildings including the Cathedral, government buildings and power lines.
"On behalf of the fellowship of churches of the World Council of Churches, I express our condolences and solidarity with the people of Haiti, as they once again experience the great burdens of anguish, damage, and death because of a natural catastrophe" said Tveit. "They already have carried many burdens of political instability and poverty."
In 2004 more than 3,000 people died because of Hurricane Jeanne which passed over the northwest city of Gonaives. This same area was hit again in 2008 when four tropical storm systems passed through the region.
In 2004 political instability led to the ousting of the President Jean-Baptiste Aristide. And in November 2008, a school collapse which was blamed on poor construction killed 90 people. Nearly 80 percent of Haitians live in poverty.
"The people of Haiti should now experience the prompt support and help from others," Tveit said early this morning. "Also through the work of the ACT Alliance there will be given support as expression of the actions of churches together worldwide."
"Let us keep our member churches in Haiti and all affected by the earthquake in our prayers and thoughts," he said.
Officials with Action by Churches Together (ACT), a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide, said ACT member churches are already involved in responding to the earthquake. The ACT secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, is now coordinating a global response to the catastrophe.
* We have just learnt that the Christian Aid office building in Haiti has collapsed and three people, including Christian Aid staff, had to be pulled from the rubble.
"The Christian Aid building was relatively robust," explained Caribbean regional manager Judith Turbyne, "Bearing in mind the very fragile state of buildings in the poorer communities, it is likely that there has been severe damage."
To donate to the Christian Aid emergency appeal, click on: www.christianaid.org.uk/give/
Source: WCC/Christian Aid