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A 24-person group of southern Albertan missionaries is set to receive an emergency evacuation from Haiti, amid intense civil unrest in the country.
The group is expected to be evacuated Saturday from the Haiti ARISE compound in Grand Goave, Haiti.
The move comes after the federal government issued a new advisory for the Caribbean country, saying Canadians should avoid all travel there as they work to evacuate citizens trapped there.
James Roberts, vice-president of Haiti ARISE, said the group was supposed to be evacuated Friday, but the helicopter company contracted to take the 24 people to the airport in Port-au-Prince was delayed. Roberts is now hoping the evacuation will take place Saturday morning.
Roberts said everyone at the Haiti ARISE compound is safe.
“The big thing is that the food depots are closed,” he said in Calgary. “The fuel depots are closed, so there’s no gas, there’s no diesel, there’s no kerosene. People are starting to run out of food.”
Haiti ARISE founder Marc Honorat said in a statement that the situation in the country “ is escalating after the president addressed the nation.”
“The opposition are still fighting and blocking roads,” he said. “There’s no way to get out by road.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa Friday the government is deeply concerned about what’s going on in Haiti.
“Many Canadians have family members and friends in Haiti that they are of course worried about, and our hearts go out to them,” Trudeau said.
Haiti ARISE spokeswoman Tammy Love said the group will be arriving in Calgary “over the next few days.”
Grand Goave, where the group is located, is a commune 65 kilometres west of Haiti capital Port-au-Prince.
In a video shared to the Haiti ARISE Facebook page Friday afternoon, Honorat said they have been trapped at their compound for over a week.
“We have nowhere to go — roads are blocked, there’s rioting all over the streets and businesses are being destroyed,” he said.
“We do have a team here that we’ve been trying to get out, but it’s been totally impossible.”
His wife, Lisa, said in the video that there are many other Canadians stuck in the country.
“There’s many other ex-pats and missionaries and foreigners in the country stuck,” she said. “We’ve heard of some as far away as 200 miles away that cannot get to the city to get to the airport.”
“It’s dangerous because everything is blocked — the country is shut down. We cannot go out to purchase fuel, diesel or food. People are living off what they have as reserves and most Haitians don’t have reserves — they live day to day.”
Deaths have already occurred in the city and in areas where people can’t get to food and water, Lisa claimed.
“If it continues on this way, it could become a big crisis very quickly.”
Global Affairs said it upgraded its advisory for Haiti late Thursday due to ongoing civil unrest throughout the country.
Its notice warns that the “security situation could further deteriorate quickly” and that people should “consider leaving by commercial means while they are available.”
More than 100 Canadians have been unable to leave Haiti since protesters blocked major highways across the country in an effort to pressure President Jovenel Moise to resign.
Protesters are angry over skyrocketing inflation and the government’s failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti.
“We’re also obviously preoccupied with a number of Canadians who are in Haiti right now who are looking to come home to Canada in this crisis situation,” Trudeau said. “We are working with them, Global Affairs Canada and all our diplomatic corps is very much engaged in this.”
Roberts said Haiti ARISE has cancelled its remaining trips for the year. Honorat will stay at the Haiti campus, where about 100 local staff are employed.
“We’re there to help the Haitian people and in times like this, we do what we can,” Roberts said.
— With files from Yolande Cole and the Canadian Press
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