Haiti: Church Leaders Ready to Assess
Damage After 7.3 Earthquake Hits
BY LIBNA STEVENS, Inter-America Division, and Adventist Review staff [Haiti Update]
eventh-day Adventist leaders in Inter-America are concerned for the thousands of church members who might have been affected by an earthquake that hit Haiti on the afternoon of January 12. The quake, measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale, was centered approximately 10 miles west of Port au Prince in the ocean, and was felt as far away as Santiago, Cuba and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. There have been several major aftershocks in the 5.9 range, news agencies have reported.
“Initial reports indicate widespread devastation, with thousands of casualties and deaths. The situation is worsened by the fact that the affected region is very highly populated (429 people per square kilometer). Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and has a population of 9.6 million. In recent years the effects of the global food crisis and particularly strong hurricane seasons have left the country very vulnerable,” according to a report from Télécoms Sans Frontières, a private relief organization.
Twenty minutes after the earthquake struck the Caribbean country, Wally Amundson, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for Inter-America, spoke to Ketteline Israel, assistant to ADRA director in Haiti.
“There are buildings collapsed all around, traffic is barely moving and a general sense of panic and loss of life is evident,” said Israel over the phone from Delmas, a region hit by the earthquake.
“This is a very sad situation and we are very concerned about our brethren,” said Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America. “We know that there will be great need in the coming days."
HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE: Survivors cope with rubble and ruin in the immediate aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake which struck 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 12, 2010. Seventh-day Adventist officials in the island are seeking information on damage and injuries, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, ADRA, is collecting donations. [Photo: Daniel Morel via Twitpic]
Leaders are hoping to have more information tomorrow about the membership and its churches and buildings. So far, the church’s headquarter-office in Delmas suffered no damage to its structure, according to local church officials.
Most of the church’s large institutions, such as its hospital and university, are based in Carrefour in the Diquini region on the southern outskirts of Port au Prince. Although Carrefour is not close to Delmas, church leaders are waiting to hear more about potential damage to those institutions, as well.
The assessment of needs is expected to be in full swing Wednesday, January 13, 2010, and the coming days, according to Amundson.
“ADRA Haiti is prepared to use cash donations for an immediate first response in terms of food and water to the most needy, utilizing its volunteer base” added Amundson.
The earthquake also delayed a volunteer project from a church in the United States that partners with a Haitian orphanage, Adventist News Network reported Wednesday. A group of 31 church members from the New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton, Maryland Tuesday night canceled a weeklong trip to the Eden Garden Orphanage, 60 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince.
"There were so many uncertainties," said Marty Chappell, a member of the volunteer team. "None of us are equipped to do search and rescue."
The group planned to hold a Vacation Bible School for community children, as well as help drill two water wells, one for the orphanage and one for the community.
"We knew we wouldn't have been able to drill [the wells] because of the aftershocks," Chappell said.
The orphanage sustained no damage, and the 50 children and the director and his wife are safe, Chappell added.
Haiti has more than 335,000 Seventh-day Adventists worshipping in 470 churches. In addition to a hospital, a university, and a bakery, the church operates dozens of schools there.
For more updates on Haiti and other news, visit www.interamerica.org. In the U.S., contributions may be made to ADRA’s Emergency Response Fund, at 800-424-2372 or online at www.adra.org. Donations in Canada' should be made to ADRA Canada's Haiti 2010 Emergency Fund at 888-274-2372 or online at www.adra.ca.