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Merrimack Valley

January 16, 2010

Lawrence rallies to coordinate Haiti relief

LAWRENCE — More than 100 people packed the City Hall lobby yesterday to pray, cry and coordinate relief efforts for the victims of Haiti's earthquake disaster.

Religious and political leaders offered a message of hope to residents, many of whom are looking to help. Others continue their struggle to contact relatives in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

"I spoke with someone yesterday who feared he lost his whole family," said an emotional Mayor William Lantigua, wiping his eyes. "Rest assured, we will do all we can do."

Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Governments and government agencies have pledged about $400 million worth of aid, including $100 million from the United States.

From Europe, Asia and the Americas, more than 20 governments, the U.N. and private aid groups were sending planeloads of high-energy biscuits and other food, tons of water, tents, blankets, water-purification gear, heavy equipment for removing debris, helicopters and other transport. Hundreds of search-and-rescue, medical and other specialists also headed to Haiti yesterday.

With a red and blue Haitian flag hanging behind him on the wall inside Lawrence City Hall, Lantigua told those who gathered yesterday how they too could do their part.

Speaking in both English and Spanish, Lantigua said Haitians need food, water and medical supplies above all else.

He said the city is working closely with Lawrence General and Holy Family hospitals, the Greater Lawrence Community Health Center and other non-profit agencies to provide relief.

Residents were asked to drop off donations at the first floor of City Hall or at the General Donovan School, 50 Cross St., where volunteers will be waiting.

A Sovereign Bank account titled El Comite Pro-Ayuda a Haiti has also been set up for monetary donations.

And in conjunction with similar efforts by the State Department, Lantigua said residents with relatives in Haiti can contact the mayor's office for assistance with reaching them.

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