Life “will never be like before” in Haiti following this weekend’s devastating earthquake, said a local priest from the beleaguered Caribbean nation.
“It is very complicated for people,” said Oblate Father Eugène Almonor, chaplain of the Haitian Catholic community in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. “There is no place in the hospital to receive injured people.”
On Saturday, a 7.2 magnitude quake rocked Haiti’s southwest peninsula, killing at least some 1,300 and injuring more than 5,700 others. The earthquake occurred just 60 miles from where a 7.2 quake struck in January 2010, in which an estimated 220,000 died and upwards of 300,000 were injured. Rescue and recovery efforts are under threat from Tropical Depression Grace, which is bearing down on the island this week with flooding rains and 35-mile-per-hour winds.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), both the January 2010 and Aug. 14 temblors centered on the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone, the region’s major fault structure and microplate boundary.
Catholic News Service reported the quake collapsed the bishop’s residence in Les Cayes, killing Father Emile Beldor. Cardinal Chibly Langlois sustained non-life-threatening arm and leg injuries; Father Jean-Antoine Coulanges is listed as missing.
Voice of America said 18 people attending a baptism were killed in Immaculate Conception Parish church of Les Anglais.
For residents of Haiti – the poorest nation in Latin America and the Caribbean, and among the most impoverished in the world – the latest quake only compounds a relentless series of disasters in recent years.
Less than six weeks ago, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home; his wife Martine, who survived her injuries in the attack, has told media that despite the arrest of 44 suspects, the plot’s true ringleaders likely remain at large. The judge overseeing the investigation stepped down last week after his clerk was killed.
Kidnapping and gun violence continue to plague Haiti, which has been hard-hit by COVID – and has struggled to rebuild over the decade since the 2010 disaster.
The Aug. 14 quake’s damage was “considerable for the victims,” said Father Almonor, in residence at St. William Parish in Philadelphia.
Members of his congregation, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), who work in Les Cayes and the surrounding area “lost all, including school buildings, churches, rectories and others,” said Father Almonor.
OMI Father Jean-Hérick Jasmin, director of the order’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) office, said in an online update that the Haitian Oblates have been reported safe. OMI Father Albert Cator emerged “unscathed, without a scratch” from rubble at Camp-Perrin, the Oblates’ campus in southern Haiti, although “two employees still cannot be found.”
The local Haitian community is working to “organize an evening of prayer to implore the Lord for Haiti,” said Father Almonor.
The event “should be a great opportunity to encourage people to manifest their solidarity with the suffering people of Haiti,” he said, noting that he is working with community leaders to organize badly needed funds “to help the most vulnerable people.”
For a list of organizations coordinating relief efforts for the people of Haiti, click here.
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