Haiti disaster hits home for director of Red Cross
David Hintch spent weeks over the span of six years sharing a small apartment at the Hotel Montana in Haiti.
Situated on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, the building tumbled to the ground when Tuesday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck.
“We were on the first floor,” said Hintch, executive director of the American Red Cross Western Colorado Chapter in Grand Junction. “It was a major hotel, and certainly there’s the potential for hundreds dead.”
Hintch worked from 2002 to 2008 for the Red Cross, performing a variety of tasks across the Caribbean, helping to open the organization’s headquarters in Haiti in 2003. Hintch was in charge of a variety of Red Cross programs in Haiti, including HIV and malaria prevention as well as disaster and preparedness response.
“Most of our disaster work was focused on hurricanes,” Hintch said. “I don’t think earthquake preparedness was in the forefront of people’s minds.”
Using his contacts through the Red Cross, Hintch said he has confirmed some of his numerous close friends and colleagues survived Tuesday’s earthquake, which officials have projected could leave a death toll in the tens of thousands.
“There are at least nine Haitian staff who worked in our office who are still missing,” he said. “It’s really difficult to be sitting here in western Colorado. I’d love to go back and help those folks.”
In part because of safety concerns, Hintch said his wife, Janeth, and two young children, stayed behind in the Dominican Republic when he left for stints of several weeks to work in Haiti.
“Port-au-Prince was a precarious place at the best of times,” he said. “You’re talking about an extremely poor country, and I’ve lived in parts of Africa. This couldn’t happen to any worse place on the Western Hemisphere, as far as I’m concerned.”