AT LEAST 1900 people have died, and many more are still missing, after an earthquake hit Haiti last weekend, demolishing homes and many churches.
A further 10,000 people are injured, and 30,000 residents have been left homeless. One church, in the remote area of southern Haiti, collapsed during a funeral service, killing dozens of mourners. Another church collapsed during mass, killing several worshippers.
In Les Cayes, which bore the brunt of the earthquake, the residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese, Cardinal Chibly Langlois, was damaged. A priest staying in the residence was killed, along with two female members of staff, and the Cardinal was injured.
Every church in Les Cayes has been demolished or severely damaged, eye-witnesses report. The cathedral in the city of Jérémie was left in ruins.
After the earthquake, the streets were “filled with screaming”, the Archdeacon of St Sauveur Episcopal Church, Les Cayes, the Revd Abiade Lozama, told The New York Times. “People are searching for loved ones or resources, medical help, water.”
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake was not the first to strike Haiti in recent years. In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude tremor killed more than 200,000 people. The death toll then was far higher, as the epicentre of the tremor was close to the densely populated capital Port au Prince.
Haiti was already experiencing instability before the earthquake, after the assassination, six weeks ago, of its President, Juvenal Moise, and increasing levels of gang violence (News, 16 July). The government has blamed the assassination on Colombian mercenaries. Elections due to take place in November are now uncertain.
Covid cases continue to rise, and the country received its first vaccine shipment only last month.
Rescue efforts after the quake are also being hampered by a tropical storm which hit Haiti on Monday, which deluged rescue workers and flooded areas already devastated by the quake.
Haiti is the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church by worshippers, with 83,000 baptised members. It also runs more than 250 schools in Haiti, more than the Haitian government. The aid arm of the church, Episcopal Relief and Development, is sending emergency aid.
The Bishop of Atlanta, the Rt Revd Robert Wright, said: “Our hearts break for our brothers and sisters in Haiti. So many of us have visited Haiti and been blessed by her faith and resilience. We pray God‘s grace and mercy on her now as she faces the tremendous trials of another earthquake and continued political upheaval. May God have mercy on the nation and people of Haiti.”