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State Offers Aid to Haitian-Americans

January 18th, 2010 by flanews

The state is offering free food, shelter, and counseling to Haitian-Americans fleeing the devastated country. An estimated 45-thousand US Citizens were in Haiti when the earthquake struck. As Whitney Ray tells us, they are flying into Florida by the hundreds.

Haitian-born Olivier Guerrier joined his fraternity brothers in a Martin Luther King Rally Monday, but his mind was on Haiti.

Im still in shock right now, because I can never go back, its never going to be the same, said Olivier.

Oliviers grandmother was one of 24-hundred Haitian-Americans flown into Florida after the earthquake struck. The state is providing food, shelter and counseling for the victims. The aid will cost millions.

The state is fronting the money with the promise that the federal government will write a reimbursement check. Although a state holiday, the Department of Children and Families has staff at airports in Orlando and Miami to help the displaced. As of noon Monday, 2,400 people were receiving aid.

The intensity of these flights are picking up. We have at least ten flights coming in to Sanford today. These planes are carrying 100, 200 people each flight, said Joe Follick, a DCF spokesman.

In Tallahassee, emergency workers were on the job using the latest technology to keep track of the rescue efforts. Satellite images show pictures before and after the disaster.

This is allowing us to get a feel of what our guys are up against down there, said Richard Butgereit, a Division of Emergency Management worker.

So far Florida first responders have joined forces with other search and rescue teams to help save 35 Haitians buried in the rubble. The majority of people flying into Florida are Haitian-Americans, although aid isnt being denied to anyone in need regardless of legal standing.

Refugees

The direr living conditions in Haiti could spark a mass exodus to Florida. The Department of Homeland Security is asking the more than three million Haitians affected by the earthquake to stay put. The US Navy has ships in the waters surrounding Haiti to help the victims, but theyll also keep an eye out for people fleeing the country. Interim Director of the Division of Emergency Management David Halstead says any refugee found in Florida will be feed and given medical treatment, but they will go to be sent back to Haiti.

I think those interdicted at sea would go to Guantanamo Bay, then they would go to other federal facilities to be processed back to Haiti. I think Secretary Napolitano was very clear on that, but from a humanitarian standpoint, with our large Haitian community, we stand ready to offer what ever assistance we can, said Halstead.

It takes three days by boat to get from Haiti to Florida, but its a dangerous trip and hundreds of people have died trying to make it to the US.

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