Haiti: SOS via SMS

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Another earthquake shook Haiti Wednesday morning after the disastrous January 12 earthquake that has left at least 75 000 people dead. This comes in a backdrop of an already challenging rescue work. Via SMS or the Internet, where possible, victims can now call for help or have it done from abroad.

The earth shook again at 11:03 GMT this Wednesday in Haiti causing panic among thousands of victims still awaiting rescue. Measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, it is the largest aftershock since the January 12 earthquake.

The provisional death toll of the disaster now stands at 75 000, 250 000 injured and nearly one million homeless, according to information released Tuesday by the Haitian civil protection services.

Send an SMS to 4636 for help

The leading mobile operator Voilà (formerly Comcel), which is also part of the Irish Digicel group, announced that having already recovered 70% of its network, its subscribers can send free SOS text messages by dialling 4636.

The service was announced through a “tweet” from the Dipnote blog, posted Tuesday by Katie Dowd, the U.S. State Department’s New Media Director. “For example, someone could text ‘I need water’ or ‘I need medical help’ with their location and these messages will be routed to aid organizations and emergency responders on the ground for free”

The diplomat has urged those with knowledge of the “4636 program” to spread it. “You can also sign up someone else’s phone number by texting REGISTER or REGISTRE and their location and number to 4636. This is also available internationally by texting REGISTER or REGISTRE and the person affected in Haiti’s number and location to +4673 749 4535”.

According to Katie Dowd, this is to enable others text their needs “and sign up for further information on relief efforts”.

Besides its wish to extend the SMS or text messaging service to all mobile operators in Haiti, the U.S. State Department has developed another program called the “Person Finder”. This allows a person to seek or give information concerning missing persons in Haiti. The program is available in Creole, English and French.

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