Disaster response teams from Samaritan’s Purse are among those responding to humanitarian and spiritual needs in the Caribbean nation of Haiti, where a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked the western region of the country on Saturday, with an early death toll in the low thousands but expected to rise.
The earthquake was centered about 78 miles west of Port-au-Prince. In 2010, a devastating 7.0-magnitude temblor hit near the capital of Port-au-Prince, killing some 300,000 people. Saturday’s quake came as tropical storms threaten search and recovery efforts, and amid political instability after the nation’s president was assassinated last month.
As of Monday, according to Reuters, Haiti’s civil protection agency had reported at least 1,297 dead, 5,700 injured and many more displaced, with more than 7,000 homes destroyed. The quake was reportedly felt as far away as Cuba to the northwest and Jamaica to the west.
As hospitals struggled to care for Covid patients, with little space to spare, emergency responders were seeking to help the wounded. The death toll was expected to rise as victims are recovered, but likely not as high as the 2010 quake that devastated densely populated Port-au-Prince.
“Pray for the people of Haiti,” Franklin Graham said on Facebook. “… Samaritan’s Purse is deploying disaster response team members and airlifting emergency relief supplies including shelter material and two community water filtration units. We are also sending a medical team to help provide basic medical care. Pray for our teams as they deploy, and pray especially for this country in the wake of another devastating disaster.”
Haiti has struggled to recover from the 2010 earthquake. On Monday, as Tropical Storm Grace approached with expected heavy rains and wind, medical workers were struggling against time to care for the injured.
“We’re pleading for help,” Marie-Helen L’Esperance, mayor of Pestel, Haiti, told the country’s Pacific Radio, the Washington Post reported. L’Esperance said with Tropical Storm Grace bearing down on them, residents “had nothing left but to pray.”
In 2010, chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT)—along with disaster response volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse—spent 22 weeks in Haiti responding to humanitarian and spiritual needs in the impoverished nation. The RRT chaplains were on the ground in Haiti less than 24 hours after the earthquake. Around 120 chaplains spent four- to six-week rotations there, praying with and comforting more than 35,000 Haitians as well as other relief workers in a country where pagan spiritual practices, government corruption and lawlessness pervade.
The latest earthquake is compounded by a political instability laid bare by the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise by gunmen in the middle of the night. Authorities believe a plot was carried out against him by a group of Columbian mercenaries with help from inside Moise’s own security detail. Security forces in Haiti have reportedly been beset with corruption as powerful gangs fight for turf, often pitting groups against each other “like feudal lords,” Reuters reported.
The former prime minister, Ariel Henry, was appointed president on July 20.
Photo: EFE/Ralph Tedy Erol via Newscom