Reflections on the catastrophic earthquake of 12 January.
Monsignor Jean Zache Duracin, Bishop of the Episcopal church of Haiti.
“Hard pressed but firm in the faith.”
This cry arises from the heart of Monsignor Jean Zache Duracin, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Haiti after the evidence of this devastating catastrophe of this Tuesday 12 January in the afternoon; a date which will be engraved for ever in the memory of Haitians and the inhabitants of the whole world. 12 January, about 4:53 in the afternoon, is the beginning of another page in the history of this republic called the “First Black Republic in the world.”
The humanitarian assistance which has been announced for this catastrophe is also historic. The quake has been a hard blow in a country of more than 10 million souls. Residents have lost everything, their house, and their former lives. The capital has been transformed into a huge refugee camp. They desperately need water, food and medication.
“I was almost buried under the roofing of Bishop’s House,” Monsignor Duracin, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Haiti, told us. “I was two seconds away from the entry door, and I was just able, thanks to the help of the Most High, to escape with my life. My wife who was inside the house is still in the ZANMI Health Centre, with injuries to her legs which were crushed in the debris of the house. We had just time to drag her from the rubble. Two of my children miraculously got out of the collapsed house. Holy Trinity Cathedral succumbed to this earthquake, magnitude 7.3 on the Richter scale, which has devastated our country: the roof of Saint Cecilia Hall, the only stadium in Haiti, has practically come down on the stage where concerts are held regularly… most of our churches are destroyed; a number of our schools are piles of rock.
St Peter’s College, where I have set up a makeshift tent with my family among about 3000 refugees during the day and many more at night, is fragile, because there is no water or food. Hygiene conditions are precarious with so many young children, nearly 200 children, and the presence of handicapped children from St Vincent school, which sustained irreparable damage, has complicated the life they had developed in an appropriate environment on Paul 6 Street. A large part of the capital has been completely destroyed. The National Palace has partly collapsed. Several Ministry buildings, Parliament, churches, hospitals, hotels, schools and several universities have been destroyed, the University of the Episcopal Church of Haiti among them. The scene before our eyes is truly sad.
The shock has severely disrupted communications in the country. The wounded are conveyed to the hospital centres that are still standing. Holy Cross Hospital is sorting itself out to help the wounded from Leogane.
“I hold out the arms of the diocese to the thousands without shelter, and I offer my prayers,” says the Bishop of the Diocese of Haiti. “Haiti already had serious difficulties before the earthquake with an extremely poor population, so after the earthquake it will be difficult for us to pull through alone.
“International media are speaking of between 150,000 and 200,000 dead. There would be 250,000 wounded and a million without shelter, over half of whom are in Port-au-Prince, the capital. We have all being surprised during the 48 seconds of this deadly tremor. The UN itself recognizes that this earthquake as a catastrophe without precedent.
“The course of THE HISTORY OF HAITI has changed.
“I want to say THANK YOU to all who have extended a helping hand to us. What is more, I would like to think that we are at the beginning of a long partnership. I invite you to accompany us in helping our Haitian brothers and sisters.
Hard pressed, but firm in the faith.”
[From the website of the Diocese of Haiti:
Translation Ted Witham tssf 23 Jan. 10]