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Florida Responds to Haiti Earthquake

Gov. Charlie Crist stopped at Miami-Dade County’s Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday as the state prepared to launch aid efforts to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Although no moves had yet been made to deploy the Florida National Guard – with airports in Haiti considered too badly damaged to receive much traffic – House Democrats with Haitian ties called for Floridians to unite behind relief efforts large and small.

“We are calling on everyone to consider Haiti at this moment,” said Rep. Ronald Brise, D-North Miami, a native of Port-au-Prince who said he spent much of Tuesday evening on the phone with relatives in Haiti.

Brise said three relatives living near Petionville – in the mountains where the massive quake was epicentered – remain unaccounted for. Brise is among three House Democrats born in Haiti, with one, Rep. Yolly Roberson, D-Miami, accompanying Crist on his flight to Miami on Wednesday.

“Haiti is our 68th county,” said Rep. Maria Sachs, a Democrat whose Delray Beach-area district includes Palm Beach County’s largest Haitian immigrant population. “We must not forget them in their greatest hour of need.”

Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, said that he and other Haitian-American lawmakers had spoken to the governor’s office this morning, where officials had ordered a ramp up in the level of preparedness at the state EOC in advance of anticipated relief efforts.

Bernard said the state’s two search-and-rescue teams are standing by to head toward Haiti when conditions there become more stabilized, while an EOC warehouse in Orlando is positioning water, meals and other supplies for the island nation.

A Boynton Beach charter school, Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice, also is coordinating area supply efforts and plans to send a flight Friday to Port-au-Prince, lawmakers said.

“We know that the needs of the people of Haiti even before this were terrible,” said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach.

Flights to Haiti Wednesday from at least one major Florida airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, were cancelled, airport officials said. Spirit Airlines and American Airlines both cancelled inbound and outbound flights between Fort Lauderdale and Port-au-Prince's Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport.

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