A South African rescue team started work in quake-devastated Haiti, the international relations department said on Sunday.
“The team arrived safely at 3am South African time. They started working at 11am this morning,” spokesperson Saul Molobi said on Sunday afternoon.
“So far, so good. We haven’t received any reports to update us on the situation on the ground.”
The team left for Haiti on Thursday, but was delayed in the Dominican Republic due to damage at an airport in Haiti. The South Africans had waited with 41 rescue teams, including three from the US army, until telecommunications equipment was reinstalled.
The South African team included about 40 people, mainly medical staff and engineers. It had taken 10 tonnes of search and rescue equipment as well as medical supplies.
Molobi said South Africa would follow this up with other aid, like food and more medicine.
“Once most of the bodies have been collected, we will send forensic pathologists to identify them.”
It was hoped South Africa could raise R30-million in assistance.
Aristide wants to return
Molobi said former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had not yet received an invitation to return home. Earlier this week, Aristide — who lives in exile in South Africa with his family following his ousting as president in February 2004 — publicly expressed a desire to go home.
“As far as we are concerned we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, to share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity,” Aristide told local media.
Molobi said Aristide would need to receive a formal invitation to be allowed home, and would not be involved in politics.
“When he goes back, he is not going back to a political office. He will just be going there to contribute through academia and civil interventions,” said Molobi. – Sapa