As he lay in bed, sick with a cold, on Tuesday night, former [artist id="1075"]Fugees[/artist] member [artist id="250119"]Pras’[/artist] phone was blowing up with texts, phone calls and messages from friends and family attempting to reach him to discuss the devastating 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday afternoon.
“There’s no communication down there,” said Pras, who was born in Brooklyn, but whose family is from Haiti. “My mother told me this morning that she still has her mother’s brothers and sister, who I’ve never met, who are still down in Haiti.” Like so many of the island’s expatriates and foreigners with ties to Haiti, Pras said he’s been unable to reach anyone in the quake zone due to the destroyed communications grid.
With former Fugees bandmate Wyclef Jean heading to Haiti on Wednesday (January 13), Pras urged everyone to do whatever they can to help the people of the Caribbean island nation whose lives have been thrown into chaos by the natural disaster. Haiti, one of the most impoverished countries in the Americas, is the ancestral home of Pras’ family and he said he has friends there who have means beyond the average Haitians’, but who he has not yet been able to reach.
At press time, Pras had not yet heard from Wyclef, who still has family and friends on the island. He said Wyclef boarded a 6:45 a.m. flight on Wednesday morning to Haiti, a country that has been battered by a series of four hurricanes over the past year.
“This is definitely the worst and that’s why the donations are cool, the relief aid are immediate short term,” but, he added, the nation’s government has to be held accountable for not using the hundreds of millions it has received in aid over the years to build up the poor infrastructure and crumbling hospitals to treat the many wounded and gravely injured.
The massive earthquake, the largest the Caribbean island has seen in more than 200 years, struck around 4:50 p.m. on Tuesday. The epicenter was around 10 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, which according to reports was largely destroyed by the initial quake and a series of more than 30 aftershocks. At press time, casualties were predicted to be in the thousands, or tens of thousands as relief agencies sped to the island to bring badly needed food and medical aid.
Like Jean, Pras encouraged people to donate to their nonprofit Yele Haiti Foundation by texting “Yele” to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund or visit Yele.org and click “donate” to help the island’s people.
According to reports, the presidential palace and other major buildings in the capital city were destroyed in the quake and chaos reigned as night fell on Tuesday and trapped victims screamed for help from the rubble. With no electricity, phone lines down and the airport closed, getting much needed aid to the nation’s people became a priority for the international community, which was scrambling to fly in supplies.
Pras said he has not been to Haiti since 2007, just after one hurricane battered the island and before a second, Noel, came aground and created widespread destruction. While Wyclef went down to offer moral support, Pras said he felt he could best help by staying in New York to keep morale up and encourage donations during Wednesday appearances on Fox, MSNBC, BET’s “106 & Park” and CNN.
The other potential fundraiser he’s working on is a Fugees benefit concert aimed at motivating people to give. “That’s the only reason I would think about doing anything on that level,” he said of reuniting with ‘Clef and estranged third member Lauryn Hill, a prospect that has been mentioned a number of times over the past few years. Pras said he’s reached out to Hill’s camp but has not heard back yet.