MANILA (Updated 2 p.m.) -- Filipino peacekeepers in Haiti could be among the thousands trapped in an Intensity 7 earthquake that struck Haiti at 4:53 p.m. (Haiti time) on Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
With the real situation on the field hardly ascertainable for now because all communication lines to the impoverished Caribbean country have been severely damaged, the DFA expressed "deep concern" over the 600-strong Filipino community there.
Initial foreign wire reports said thousands may have died in the strongest quake yet to hit Haiti in more than 200 years and that the civil war-wracked country is in "total disaster and chaos."
The DFA itself said it "is deeply concerned over the condition of Filipinos" in Haiti -- 157 officers and enlisted personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and 22 from the Philippine National Police who compose the 10th Philippine peacemaking mission to Port-au-Prince and an estimated 445 Filipino civilian residents.
The DFA has not received information yet from the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, whose headquarters, foreign wire reports said, was among those heavily damaged.
Neither has there been information from either the Philippine mission in the United Nations in New York or the Philippine embassy in Havana, Cuba, which has jurisdiction over Haiti.
In a flash text message, DFA spokesperson J. Eduardo Malaya assured that the public will be periodically updated about the quake and the Filipino community there as the information becomes available.
In late December, the same Filipino peacekeepers were honored and were given medals by the United Nations for "their continued presence in Haiti and helping ensure stability in this impoverished Caribbean country." Army Lieutenant Colonel Lope Dagoy leads the contingent.
"I would like to thank you for having helped us bring more stability to Haiti and would like to congratulate you on your dedication and commitment to your tasks. I would also like to thank the Government of the Philippines, its armed forces and its population for their support to Minustah and other peacekeeping operations around the world," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said through his representative at the ceremonies.
Minustah is acronym for Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti. (PNA)