The president of a Springfield group that operates aid programs in Haiti says the Caribbean island nation is not equipped to deal with the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Tuesday. “One of the interesting questions that CNN has posed is, ‘How prepared is Haiti to handle a disaster?’” said H. Brent Deland, president of the Haitian Development Fund, Tuesday night. “Haiti is a disaster. They’re not prepared -- they don’t have any kind of structure to deal with this.”

The president of a Springfield group that operates aid programs in Haiti says the Caribbean island nation is not equipped to deal with the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Tuesday.

“One of the interesting questions that CNN has posed is, ‘How prepared is Haiti to handle a disaster?’” said H. Brent Deland, president of the Haitian Development Fund, Tuesday night. “Haiti is a disaster. They’re not prepared -- they don’t have any kind of structure to deal with this.”

Deland said the local hospital on any given day cannot handle the normal flow of patients, let alone the thousands presumably injured in the earthquake.

“I was there in May, and their emergency room had about 100 patients on beds, on cots and on doors that had been taken off the hinges and had been set on sawhorses,” Deland said. “There were two medical students tending to them.”

When the damage is assessed, Deland said, he thinks Tuesday’s quake will have set Haiti back at least 20 years. Its only hope, he says, is quick and decisive aid from the international community.

He is also uncertain whether the Sarthe Medical Clinic, which is supported by the Haitian Development Fund, is still standing.

The clinic is about four miles northeast of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, which is in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

“Ironically, I’m scheduled to be there Saturday for a prearranged trip,” Deland said. “We don’t know yet what we’re going to do. We don’t know if the airport will be open to regular air travel, and we have no idea if our housing still stands or if the clinic exists.”

Deland was able to reach Junior Sinsymr, his special assistant and senior translator, who survived the earthquake on Tuesday. Sinsymr lives about a mile and a half from the airport.

“After the second aftershock, he had no idea what was going on and asked me,” Deland said. ““He said that his home was destroyed and that he, his wife and daughter were standing outside with thousands of others, and there were no buildings within his sight.”

Rhys Saunders can be reached at (217) 788-1521 or rhys.saunders@sj-r.com.