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Whidbey woman survives Haiti quake

Trisha (Koorn) Zakhour - Photo courtesy of Marv Koorn
Trisha (Koorn) Zakhour
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Marv Koorn

The 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti Tuesday evening hit home for North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Marv Koorn.

His daughter Trisha, son-in-law Tarek Zakhour and 18-day-old grandson, Lucas, make their home in Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, currently a devastated area in which thousands died and untold numbers remain trapped in collapsed buildings.

Tuesday evening, Koorn received a call from his daughter, but could only understand “every two out of three words.”

Since then his wife, Margaret, has communicated with her through the social networking site, Facebook.

The young family is in the U.S. Embassy’s system, with paperwork and a flight waiting for them at the airport, Koorn said.

“It’s difficult when you have a 16-day-old baby who doesn’t have a passport,” Koorn said of his third grandchild. “It’s just a matter of getting there. They’ve been told not to travel at night. There’s a lot of unrest right now; people are looting the stores.”

The airport is nearby, but the roads are littered with rubble.

Once they get to the airport, the family plans to fly to Miami, Fla., then home to Oak Harbor, he said.

Trisha has lived in Haiti for the past 10 years and was working as a fourth-grade teacher at Quisqueya Christian School in Port au Prince. According to the school’s Web site, “all teachers (are) OK. No school until further notice.”

Koorn’s son-in-law was at work when the earthquake hit. The building collapsed, but he managed to crawl out, Koorn said.

The family’s home appears to be fine, but they aren’t taking any chances, so they’re staying with Tarek’s sister in nearby Petionville.

Koorn and his wife just returned from a three-week visit with their daughter, son-in-law and newest grandchild last Saturday, four days before the earthquake.

The weather in Haiti is much different than that of the Pacific Northwest.

Koorn experienced high humidity and temperature ranging from 75 to 85 degrees during his visit.

The American Red Cross has pledged $1 million to assist earthquake victims in Haiti, and will take further action after local responders assess the situation, according to a press release sent one day after the quake.

T.J. Harmon, executive director of the Island County Chapter of the American Red Cross, said the phones are ringing off the hook with assistance inquiries.

“What they need right now is funds,” she said. “Please do not donate goods. Donations go to a dedicated fund that can be used to purchase supplies near the disaster.”

Material donations cost more to ship than they do to buy in Haiti, she said.

The local disaster team, a group of 75 highly trained volunteers, is on stand-by, she said. They don’t anticipate they’ll be called to action in Haiti. That’s a good thing for now because there’s a “river watch” in Whatcom, Snohomish and Skagit counties this weekend, due to heavy rains in the forecast, she said.

Donations may be dropped off at the Oak Harbor office 1150 SE Dock St., Monday Through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or text “HAITI” to 90999 and a $10 donation will go to the American Red Cross relief for Haiti. The donation charge will appear on the next cell phone bill. All donations are tax-deductible.

For inquiries about relatives living in Haiti, please be patient and call repeatedly until the lines clear or contact other family members who live nearby. Telephone, Internet and other communication lines are often disrupted in times of disaster. People trying to locate U.S. citizens living or traveling in Haiti should contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, at 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225.

Call 675-2912 to contact the Island County office.

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