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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A mountain village looks for survivors, waits for help after Haiti’s earthquake

Families from Les Cayes to Maceline, about 16 miles away, are sleeping out in the open, their homes severely damaged or completely destroyed.

By: New York Times |
Updated: August 16, 2021 11:40:32 am
A mountain village looks for survivors, waits for help after Haiti’s earthquakeLocals recover their belongings from their homes destroyed in the earthquake in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes, Haiti, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021 (AP/PTI)

Written by Maria Abi-Habib

The nephew of Ilda Pierre had just discovered her body among the pews of St. Agnes church when an aftershock ripped through the mountainous town, rattling the collapsed corrugated tin roofs strewn across the dirt.

Honore Faiyther closed his eyes and waited for the trembling to pass as he sat on what had once been the wall of the church — now just a slab of cement. Steps away from him, the body of Pierre lay on a metal grate, a white sheet covering her body.

Pierre had been cleaning the church with a friend when an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 struck Saturday. As they tried to run outside, a pillar collapsed just as Pierre’s friend reached the door, smacking her in the head and crushing her skull. She was killed instantly.

It’s not clear if Pierre was also killed immediately. Faiyther and three friends had been searching for her since midmorning Saturday and only discovered her bruised and bloodied body Sunday afternoon when people in the neighborhood had joined together to wrench open the roof that had collapsed on the church, sealing the wreckage underneath.

“My aunt has four children, and she’s very active in our community and volunteered in this church for five years,” said Faiyther. “Her husband is in denial — he cannot face that she is dead.”

The Rev. Jean Edy Desravines described the moments after the earthquake, as cries pierced the mountain range and people searched for their loved ones.

“I was preparing a sermon for today, to inspire parents to send their children back to school next month, to have them rejoin our community after such a tough year,” said Desravines, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now there is no school to even send them to,” the priest said, adding that the primary school his church runs had also been flattened by the quake.

More than 24 hours after the quake, no government help had arrived.

Later that night, he said, he would be sleeping in his pickup truck. With no running water, he feared the situation would further deteriorate and disease could become a problem.

The road from Les Cayes, on the coast, to Maceline, in the mountains that overlook the city, was cracked down the center, with boulders and tree branches blocking it.

Families from Les Cayes to Maceline, about 16 miles away, are sleeping out in the open, their homes severely damaged or completely destroyed. Many said they were too nervous about the aftershocks to comfortably take shelter under a roof.

The mayor of Maceline, Fenicile Marssius, whose home was destroyed, walked up to the church to check in on Desravines.

“This is a catastrophe. We have had no assistance from the government. Maybe they have so much to do in the cities that they cannot reach us in these remote areas,” said Marssius. “We believe a lot of people still are underneath the rubble, and many houses and churches have collapsed.”

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