Haiti earthquake: Naomi Osaka vows to give tennis tournament winnings to relief victims in powerful statement

Haiti earthquake: Naomi Osaka vows to give tennis tournament winnings to relief victims in powerful statement

Tennis star Naomi Osaka has pledged her support to the people of Haiti after the country was floored by a devastating earthquake.

The four-time Grand Slam champion, whose father’s family are Haitian, released a powerful statement hours after the catastrophe, praising the country’s citizens for their strength and vowing to donate to relief efforts.

The 7.2 magnitude quake hit the west of the country on Saturday morning, leaving at least 304 people dead and injuring more than 1,800.

Hundreds of homes were flattened by the terrible tremor, with Haitians working overnight to pick through shattered buildings in search of friends and relatives trapped in the rubble.

Osaka, 23, will play in the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati on Monday, and has vowed to donate her prize money to the victims of the disaster.

Writing on Twitter she said it “really hurts to see all the devastation that’s going on in Haiti”, but stressed: “I know our ancestors’ blood is strong, we’ll keep rising.”

Her message racked up more than 76,600 likes and 11,300 retweets in just eight hours, as supporters hailed her for setting a moral example to others:

In her tweet, Osaka also alluded to Haitians not being able to “catch a break” in reference to the years of hardship suffered by the impoverished island nation.

The country is still clawing its way back from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake which saw around 250,000 people lose their lives, and is grappling with the shock assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, last month.

Southwestern Haiti bore the brunt of Saturday’s blow, especially in the region in and around the city of Les Cayes. Churches, hotels, hospitals and schools were badly damaged or destroyed, while the walls of a prison were ripped open by the violent shudders.

"We need to show a lot of solidarity with the emergency," said the country’s prime minister Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who was thrust into the political limelight following the killing of President Moïse on July 7.

Some Haitians said they would spend Saturday night sleeping in the open, traumatised by memories of the magnitude 7.0 2010 quake that struck far closer to the sprawling capital Port-au-Prince, and affected some 3 million people.

Footage of Saturday’s aftermath posted on social media showed residents reaching into narrow openings in piles of fallen masonry to pull out shocked and distraught people from the debris of walls and roofs that had crumbled around them.

Access to the worst-hit areas has been complicated by a deterioration in law and order that has left key access roads in parts of Haiti in the hands of gangs, although unconfirmed reports on social media suggested they would let aid pass.

Following Moïse’s assassination, which authorities have alleged was carried out by a group of largely Colombian mercenaries and Haitian accomplices, Prime Minister Henry said officials would aim to hold elections for a new president as soon as possible.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks during a press conference in Port-au-PrinceAFP via Getty Images

However, reports earlier this week suggested that the vote initially earmarked for September would not take place until November, and the chaos unleashed by Saturday’s natural disaster is likely to make the task of prompt elections harder still.

The quake send tremors traveling as far as Jamaica and Cuba, and countries in the region quickly offered help to Haiti.

"I am saddened by the devastating earthquake that occurred in Saint-Louis du Sud, Haiti this morning. Through USAID, we are supporting efforts to assess the damage and assist efforts to recover and rebuild," said U.S. President Joe Biden.

Long racked by political instability, Haitians have also suffered at the hands of international aid efforts and peace-keeping deployments during the past decade.

A sexual misconduct scandal centering on Oxfam International blighted the record of charity workers in Haiti, while a cholera outbreak linked to UN peacekeepers led to thousands of deaths.

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