Telecom Emergency Team Deploys To Haiti

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Telecoms Sans Frontieres is attempting to re-establish communications in Haiti following the earthquake, but severe damage to the country’s capital is hindering efforts

Emergency telecoms group Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) has revealed that the destruction of large parts of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince is hampering its efforts to re-establish communications in the disaster-hit country.

Speaking to eWEEK Europe UK, Monique Lanne-Petit, director of TSF, said that the group deployed a team of emergency telecoms specialists to Haiti on Tuesday which has encountered conditions as bad as any it has had to face to date.

“The difference with other emergencies is that normally the capital city coordinates. But here Port-au-Prince is the most affected so it’s a real problem,” she said. “Today we can maybe have a better view of what we can do but so far it has been very complicated.”

Haiti was hit by the effects of an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter Scale on Tuesday, 12th January. Although the epicentre of the quake was off the coast of the island nation, it was still only 17km from the capital Port-au-Prince. After-shocks measuring between 5.9 and 5.5 have also hit and experts have said that an earthquake on this scale has not been recorded in the region for 250 years.

TSF has deployed a 3-man team from its Latin American base in Managua, Nicaragua equipped with satellite mobile and fixed telecoms tools including Inmarsat BGAN or R-BGAN terminals. According to Lanne-Petit, the team’s initial role is to help with the coordination of the aid effort by establishing communications between the various aid groups on the ground, including the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO).

Once good communications links have been established between aid groups, TSF’s next mission is to use its mobile or even fixed, very small aperture terminal (VSAT) systems to allow relatives outside of Haiti to contact their families on the island and also improve communications within the country itself.

TSF was set up in 1998 by former France Telecom employee Jean-Francois Cazenove and has deployed to numerous natural disasters and war-zones around the world in that time as well as establishing longer-term communications projects.

The organisation is always on the look-out for technically-skilled volunteers to help with its aid work. More details can be found on the charity’s web site.

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[Pictures from Telecoms Sans Frantieres]


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