Thursday, October 13, 2016

Haitians go to church despite devastation, as aid trickles in

Faith amidst the devastationHaitian survivors of Hurricane Matthew put on their Sunday finest and picked their way through downed power lines to sing, praise, and pray in ruined churches, as international rescue efforts began ramping up, reports AP in The Catholic Herald.

Guillaume Silvera, a senior official with the Civil Protection Agency in the storm-blasted Grand-Anse Department, which includes the town of Jeremie, said at least 522 deaths were confirmed there alone — not including people in several remote communities still cut off by collapsed roads and bridges.

Despite the loss, families packed into what remained of the city’s churches on Sunday, many seated in pews under open sky because Hurricane Matthew ripped away roofs and even walls of the sanctuaries. At least one was so badly damaged that worshippers set up an altar and prayed outside.

Elise Pierre, who said she was about 80, said she believed it was a divine miracle that she and her loved ones survived.

“If God wasn’t protecting us we’d all be gone today, blown into the ocean or up into the mountains,” said Ms Pierre, whose straw hat almost concealed a gash on her forehead she sustained when her sheet metal roof collapsed during the height of Matthew’s fury.

The sound of hammering could be heard on nearly every street in Jeremie, a city near the tip of Haiti’s southwest peninsula, as people patched their roofs as best as they could.

On one corner, Jameson Pierre was mixing cement and making it into blocks. The 22-year-old storm refugee whose family was stuck in an emergency shelter, saw at least one bright side.

“There will be lots and lots of jobs since so many homes were knocked down. I’ve been working for the last three days straight,” he said in the fierce morning sun. He said he was getting about a dollar a day.

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