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Baldwin resident mourns loss of Haitian cousins, fears worst

It was the phone call he dreaded.

On the other end of the line, Richard Laurent's cousin delivered the tragic news Wednesday morning: His aunt and two other young cousins were found dead, buried underneath the rubble of their home in a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

Laurent dropped his phone in shock, and his friend Harry Pierre-Louis picked it up and took over the conversation.

>>PHOTOS: Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

"My brain is not . . . ," the Baldwin man said before trailing off. "I am scared to pick up the phone. It's just crazy. The bodies they are going to find is going to be ridiculous."

Laurent, 49, a musician and artist who goes by the name "Earthman," received the call at a Haitian music shop, Savoir Faire Records on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn.

He and his daughter, Soleil, 15, were at the store Wednesday, where people stopped in to chat about the devastating earthquake and to begin planning for the relief effort and a vigil in the evening. They also wanted to start laying the groundwork for a possible concert to raise money for the relief effort.

"It just really hits you," Laurent said later. "You were watching it on TV, and it hits you that it's your family."

More than 100,000 Haitians live in and around the Flatbush section of Brooklyn where there was plenty of anxiety among those who could not get in touch with loved ones.

Laurent pointed out that the poor construction of homes in Haiti made them particularly vulnerable to an earthquake.

"I go there all the time," Laurent said. "You have cinder block on top of dirt ground. There is no foundation."

Soleil, who with her mother, Johanna Laurent, worked directly with a Haitian orphanage called Life for the World that helps to feed and clothe about 200 children - infants to 15-year-olds - had been calling there, frustrated they've been unable to get word.

"Currently, they are all missing," Soleil Laurent said, showing off a photo album of the smiling children. "I don't know if they are still alive or if the house is still up."

At the Radio Soleil d'Haiti station on Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, DJ Ricot Dupuy said he's basically been on the air around the clock since the earthquake struck.

Listeners are flooding the phone lines, Dupuy said. Some are asking for information, some listing their missing loved ones, some simply crying on the air without a word.

"This hit them more today than yesterday, the brutality of the reality," Dupuy said of his listeners.

At St. Jerome's Roman Catholic Church, on Newkirk Avenue, the largest congregation in the Brooklyn's Haitian community, the Rev. Hugues Berrette, the church's parochial vicar, said special prayers during Masses at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. and noon. He said he started receiving phone calls from people in the community shortly after news of the quake began hitting the community.

"The situation is very, very, very bad," he said. "There is no electricity. There are no phones. Many people cannot go inside their houses."

He said the church was grieving over the loss of Archbishop Joseph Miot, whose body was found in the rubble. Miot had visited the church a few years ago.

"We need to supply water. We need medicine," Berrette said. First, "we try to get information. Second step is we invite the people to collect supplies."

Parishioner Therese Dorval, 78, of East Flatbush, cried as she talked about the anguish of trying to reach a host of cousins she left behind when she moved to the United States in 1961. She had just spoken with them Tuesday afternoon, before the quake.

"I am worried because I don't know where they are," Dorval said. "Maybe today I will find out something."

Dorval said she had a sleepless night seeing the video footage coming in of the ruins.

"I was not expecting it to be that bad," she said.

Albrte Baroulette, 51, of East Flatbush, came to church because she didn't know where else to go. She said she lit candles for each of her family members in hopes they are OK.

Baroulette said she has heard of friends in the community who have received calls, including one man who told family that he had escaped his home but his two children were buried in the rubble.

"They say that's God's work," she said. "I don't think God would do something like that."

Baroulette said she had spoken with her sister Tuesday afternoon about 1:30 and was at work when she first heard about the quake. She has been trying to get in touch with her sister ever since.

"I tried calling her all night. I didn't sleep. I sit in the chair watching CNN. The pictures are graphic. They make me sick. I have been crying all night. I just want to know if my sister is OK."

With Sophia Chang

>>PHOTOS: Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

>> LIVE: Twitter coverage of the scene in Haiti, from aid agencies, and reaction worldwide

>> VIDEOS: Latest videos from Haiti and on LI

>> MORE: Read more about LIers grieving and LI's efforts to help | Latest news from Haiti | Haiti's road to chaos: 2006 Newsday series



* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders

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