Newfoundland man missing in Haiti

Terry Roberts
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Family hopeful Deer Lake native James W. Coates will be found alive

A Newfoundland man, described by his family as an adventurer and very generous, is among those unaccounted for at the shattered United Nations headquarters in Haiti.

The five-storey headquarters building was among the many structures that collapsed in the impoverished Caribbean country Tuesday evening following a magnitude-7.0 earthquake.

James Coates was in Haiti when an earthquake struck. His family has been trying to locate him since the quake. - Submitted photo

A Newfoundland man, described by his family as an adventurer and very generous, is among those unaccounted for at the shattered United Nations headquarters in Haiti.

The five-storey headquarters building was among the many structures that collapsed in the impoverished Caribbean country Tuesday evening following a magnitude-7.0 earthquake.

James W. Coates, originally from Deer Lake, has been working with the UN stabilization mission in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, since September 2008.

He was likely in his office on the building's fifth floor when it collapsed, his sister, Novalee Coates-Drover, said Friday.

"Everybody's hoping and praying there is still hope that he's still alive," an emotional Coates-Drover said.

James Coates is one of dozens of UN staff missing, according to reports from the ravaged country. Tens of thousands of people are thought to have died throughout the country, in what has been described as the country's worst disaster.

Officials reported Friday afternoon that eight UN workers were recovered alive from the rubble, and another 18 bodies were found. Coates was not among them.

"They still understand there's some people alive, but there's not a lot of time left," said Darryl Drover, Novalee's husband.

Coates, 37, works as an information management assistant with the UN. He was communicating with a friend through his computer when the quake hit, his sister explained.

Novalee, who lives in St. John's, said there's been very little information on her brother ever since.

The family has been tirelessly reaching out to organizations such as the UN, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Canadian government. Several friends of Coates - mainly co-workers with the UN - are attempting to make their way to Haiti in order to help with the rescue effort.

"He's worked all over the world, so he's got an awful lot of family and friends who are praying for him," Novalee said.

She said people have been commenting on Coates' Facebook page, offering words of encouragement.

The family learned Thursday night that heavy equipment had arrived at the headquarters building and was beginning to remove rubble from the site.

People were recovered from the debris, but Novalee could not confirm their condition, or whether or not her brother was among them.

The family is hopeful that because Coates was on the building's top floor, his chances of survival may be higher.

No one is ready to give up yet, Novalee said.

Coates, who is single, spent Christmas at home in Deer Lake. It was the first time the entire family - including mother Lillian Coates-Dinney, sisters Novalee, Lorrieann and Shelley - were all together in several years.

"We had an amazing family reunion," Novalee said.

Lorrieann said she recently spoke with the UN hotline out of New York, and it wasn't much help.

"They said that communication was so bad with Haiti right now that it's taking a long time for information to be connected to them. They don't have any new information on Jim," Lorrieann said Friday.

James Coates has a passion for travel, music and writing. He has spent time in Africa and Vietnam, and has worked at the UN headquarters in New York.

A biography of James Coates posted on the website suite101.com states: "As long as there's a country to explore, a pen to capture the spirit of the place, and a few good tunes playing on his headphones, James will keep moving and writing."

His sister said that captures the essence of her brother.

"He's an amazing man," Novalee said.

Brothers safe

Meanwhile, it was a happy ending for brothers Vaden and Emerson Oram of Glovertown.

The Orams returned to Canada overnight Thursday following several harrowing days in Port-au-Prince.

They were in Haiti trying to drum up business for their fish company, and spent two nights sleeping in the parking lot of their hotel following the earthquake.

They were evacuated to Miami aboard a Canadian Forces airplane, and later flew on to Montreal. Both men say they were lucky to have survived the ordeal, and described scenes of chaos and destruction in Haiti.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: United Nations, Red Cross, Salvation Army Canadian Forces

Geographic location: Haiti, Newfoundland, Deer Lake Port-au-Prince Caribbean St. John's New York Africa Vietnam Canada Miami Montreal

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