Monday, January 25, 2010

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Haitian Football Federation says 30 dead

...Burrell's fact-finding mission reveals 20 others entombed in rubble

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant Sport Editor

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

At least 30 members of Haiti's football family have been confirmed dead in the wake of last Tuesday's catastrophic earthquake.

President of the Haitian Football Federation (HFF), Dr Jean Bart, confirmed this to Caribbean Football Union (CFU) senior vice-president, Jamaican Captain Horace Burrell, who visited the ravaged Caribbean island on Sunday on a fact-finding mission at the request of FIFA vice-president, Austin 'Jack' Warner.

"President Dr Bart confirmed that at least 30 members of the football family have died, with at least 20 still buried in the rubble. He stated also that a number of committee meetings were in progress when the quake struck," Captain Burrell said yesterday.

Several senior committee members, including administrators, referees, coaches, players, medical personnel and office staff are counted among the dead, or otherwise missing throughout the capital of the French-speaking Caribbean island.

Captain Burrell, who returned to Jamaica from Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince via Santo Domingo yesterday, said a badly injured Dr Bart and other distraught members of the HFF met him on arrival at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport.

"On arrival we were met by a delegation from the Haitian federation led by an injured president Dr Bart, who was wounded with cuts and bruises all over his body," said an obviously disturbed Captain Burrell.

"It was evident from the bandages and wounds that he had a miraculous escape, but several others who were with him at a committee meeting were not so lucky and perished within seconds of the earthquake," he added. Dr Bart is believed to have been the only survivor of that meeting.

Captain Burrell said he was then taken to the area that once housed the HFF, and was shocked when told that the crumbled heap of concrete was once the three-storey secretariat building.

"Having not visited the facility before, I was shocked when I was told that there were three floors, but now it's just basically a flat mass of block and cement, trapping many who were inside the building at the time of the earthquake," he said.

"The most painful part of my visit was to witness three bodies of our Haitian FF colleagues in a state of partial decomposition and still pinned by heavy concrete," added the Jamaican, who also serves as a member of CONCACAF's Executive Committee headed by Warner.

Captain Burrell has since filed a report of his findings to the hierarchy of FIFA.

On his drive through devastated Port-au-Prince, Captain Burrell recounted ugly images of widespread death and destruction.

"Words cannot described what I have seen in Haiti. It is simply heartbreaking; there is an emptiness in this land, which must be filled soon. The country has been engulfed by a sense of hopelessness and despair," he said.

Meanwhile, FIFA vice-president and CFU boss, Warner, said yesterday that the FIFA family has rallied an initial response of almost US$1 million to go towards ongoing disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean country.

FIFA itself has committed US$250,000, while FIFA vice-president Korean Chung Moon-Jung of Hyundai motor fame has pledged US$500,000 of his own funds. Warner, meantime, held true to his promise of US$100,000, also his personal money.

"The football community stands in solidarity with Haiti. As our brothers and sisters face their darkest hour, we must let them know that they are not alone," Warner said.

With a week gone since the powerful 7.0 earthquake struck the impoverished nation, more than 100,000 people have been confirmed dead so far and this number is expected to climb in the coming days and weeks as many victims are still believed to be entombed beneath mounds of concrete.

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