'Everyone was crying': Grieving Haitians bury their dead a week after quake

People carry a coffin during a funeral after an Aug 14 quake, in Marceline near Les Cayes, Haiti, on Aug 21, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

MARCELINE, Haiti (REUTERS) - Families gathered in villages in south-western Haiti over the weekend to hold church and funeral services a week after an earthquake battered the region, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying tens of thousands of buildings.

The collapse of churches in some of the worst-affected towns and villages of the impoverished Caribbean nation left residents to grieve in open fields.

At the Paroisse Saint-Joseph De Simon Roman Catholic Church on the outskirts of Les Cayes, the south-western city that bore the brunt of the quake, about 200 worshippers gathered early for the first Sunday mass since the disaster.

"Everyone was crying today for what they had lost," said the priest, Marc Orel Saël. "And everyone is stressed because the earth is still shaking," he added, referring to near daily aftershocks that have rattled nerves all week.

The 7.2-magnitude quake struck Haiti on Aug 14 amid a period of extreme political upheaval following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last month. Allegations set out in a report by a local human rights group stirred fresh ferment at the weekend.

The report into Moise's killing by the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) alleged that new Prime Minister Ariel Henry had spoken on the night of the assassination by telephone to one of the main suspects, Joseph Felix Badio.

Jean-Junior Joseph, a close aide to Henry, wrote on Twitter on Saturday afternoon that the Prime Minister had told him he had "never spoken" to Badio, a former Haitian official.


In the village of Marceline, dozens of mourners dressed in elegant black or white suits gathered in front of a decimated Roman Catholic school to hold a funeral service for four members of the same family who died in the quake.

Men and women wept on Saturday over the four white coffins: three small ones for the children and one larger one for the family's matriarch, 90-year-old Marie Rose Morin.

"I'm distraught looking at these coffins," said Edouard Morin, her son.

Edouard was also burying his daughter, Kelly, 15, his niece Wood-Langie, 10, and his nephew, Carl-Handy, 4.

"I would feel better if I were being buried in the same grave as my mother," he said.

The four-way funeral cost US$1,750 (S$2,384), a huge sum for farmers in rural parts of a nation where per capita gross domestic product is less than US$1,200, according to World Bank data.

Franck Morin, Wood-Langie's father, recalled how he had left for work as a driver only minutes before the ground began to shake. He rushed back, only to find his wife bleeding from her legs and sobbing in front of the heap that was once their home.

A backhoe loader removes the rubble of a collapsed house a week after an earthquake battered the region, in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Aug 21, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

The two of them dug through the rubble for two days until they found their daughter's body.

"She was loved by the whole community, she was always dancing in church," said Morin.

Outside another Catholic Church overlooking the main park in Les Cayes, dozens of worshipers gathered for Sunday mass in the yard adjacent to the damaged cathedral.

"Let's go fulfill the work of the Lord," the priest intoned solemnly as he closed out the ceremony.

The quake has claimed the lives of at least 2,207 people. A total 344 people are missing, while 12,268 people were injured, authorities said. The disaster followed a devastating temblor in 2010 that killed tens of thousands of people.

Recovery efforts have been impeded by flooding and damage to access roads, feeding tensions in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Exasperation over delays in assistance began to boil over in recent days, with residents looting aid trucks in several towns across the south, stirring concerns about security.

In response to the devastation caused by the quake, the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) has launched a public appeal to support the affected and vulnerable communities, it said on Monday (Aug 23) in a press release.

Working closely with the International Federation of Red Cross Red and Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Partners, the aid will be channeled towards emergency healthcare, first-aid for the injured, food assistance and shelter for those who have lost their homes after the earthquake.

Mr Benjamin William, Secretary General and CEO of Singapore Red Cross, said, "Haiti is at the start of hurricane season, which means the likelihood of being impacted by another storm is very high, and the communities will need all the help they can get."

"As many roads and bridges have already been destroyed by the earthquake, the worst-hit areas are extremely hard to access. We can expect further damage to infrastructure and more fatalities," he noted.

"Our priority is to support the efforts of the Haiti Red Cross Society and to provide them with resources that can help expand their outreach to communities in need," he added.

SRC has also activated its "Restoring Family Links" (RFL) service to assist Singaporeans and others to locate their immediate family members who may have been affected by the disaster with whom they have difficulty in contacting.

For assistance, please contact SRC at rfl@redcross.sg.

Details on the public appeal are available on this website.

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