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Irish students in lucky escape day before disaster hit

A GROUP of UCD students have spoken of their narrow escape after they missed the Haiti earthquake by just one day.

The young team of 12 volunteers flew out of Port-au-Prince and touched down in Dublin airport on Monday morning -- just hours before the devastating 7.0 magnitude quake struck the Caribbean island.

The students desperately tried to contact friends they had left behind on the island but told the Herald they fear may never hear from many of them again.

The students and alumni, from the university's charity UCD Volunteers Overseas had be initiative on the Caribbean island after jetting off on December 27.





Afraid

Commerce graduate Marc McCabe (25), from Clonskeagh, said: "It's hard to believe. We were just getting over the jet-lag when we heard it on the news.

"We have finally got word back from some of our friends in Haiti. One of the nuns has a shattered shoulder and has still received no medical attention but the majority seem to be okay physically.

"They have all been forced to leave their homes because they are on the verge of collapse. There are already looters about and they are afraid of being robbed because their front door won't close.

"Most people are okay but I have several close Haitian friends who I may never hear from.

"The country was already in disarray before this earthquake even struck. I can't imagine a place less able to withstand such a disaster," he said.

The students were based in Gros Morne, seven hours' drive from the capital, and flew out last Saturday afternoon.

They touched down in Dublin on Monday morning.

Accountancy student Patrick O'Neill (24), from Murrintown, Wexford, said: "It has definitely crossed our minds that we could easily still have been there because everyone has been saying 'thank God you're home' so there is great relief.





Concern

UCD has been sending students to Haiti since 2005. The student volunteers have now launched a major fundraising drive to help their friends and communities there. The UCD charity has already raised more than €10,000 for Haiti and will have people on the city's streets collecting donations into next week.

They have also organised a big fundraising night in Base Bar on Wicklow Street next Friday. Donations can also be made by following a link on ucdvo.org.

hnews@herald.ie


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