LEWISTON — Eric Mathieu spent much of Wednesday holed up in his dorm room, trying to get through to relatives in Haiti.

“We’re waiting to hear from them,” he said. He did not know whether they were alive after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti on Tuesday.

By late afternoon Wednesday, Mathieu learned that his aunt, uncle and cousins had survived, though their house was damaged.

Mathieu, 19, is a Bates College student from Long Island, N.Y. His mother and father were born in Haiti. His aunt and three cousins live outside Port-au-Prince, the capital of the island nation.

Myron Beasley, a Bates professor of African-American studies, recently returned from Port au Prince where he organized an international art exhibit in December.

 “I’m totally devastated,” Beasley said Wednesday. “I’ve been up all night receiving tweets. Haiti’s been the site of my research for the last three or four years.”

Beasley described Port au Prince as fragile with poorly built buildings. “Yet it’s a very productive, vibrant city,” he said.

He was waiting to hear whether his friends and colleagues survived the quake. As of Wednesday afternoon, he had heard from some through his Twitter social networking site. “I haven’t heard any voices,” he said.

He had learned that the neighborhood where he stayed last month was flattened. The hotel was the only building left standing, he said. “It’s really scary; quite ghostly.”

Beasley described Haitian people as “wonderful and loving. They are resilient.”

On Wednesday, Mathieu began collecting money to help quake victims. The country had no means of preparing for such a catastrophe, he said.

“The buildings were not nearly as stable as the buildings we’re privileged to have here,” he said. “Thousands of people are presumed dead, and many more will be left with nothing. Any help we can give them will be greatly needed and greatly appreciated.”

Maine Bishop Richard Malone is directing all parishes to take special collections Jan. 16 and 17 to help Haiti.

Every dollar will go to Catholic Relief Services, which has been in Haiti for more than 55 years. CRS is mobilizing emergency staff to set up shelters and distribute food, water, water purification tablets, mosquito nets and hygiene kits, said Carleen Cook, director of CRS in Maine. CRS has committed to providing $5 million in emergency relief, she said.

[email protected]

To donate to earthquake victims in Haiti, go to: http://crs.org/

Or mail
checks: Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 11559, Portland, ME
04104-7559; or national office at P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD. 21203-7090. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine asks contributions to
note in the memo portion of the check to designate “Haiti earthquake,. 

Eric Mathieu, 19, of Long Island, N.Y., makes phone calls from his dorm room as he tries to get a fundraiser going at Bates College for aid relief to Haiti, where a 7.0 earthquake struck Tuesday. Mathieu’s parents grew up in Haiti and he still has family there. He found out late Wednesday afternoon that his family was OK.

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