Surcha Romain was deep in prayer Tuesday morning at the First Haitian Church of the Nazarene. Romain’s parents, family and friends were in the path of a powerful Hurricane Matthew, which began hitting the island nation late Monday night before making landfall on Tuesday.
“The water is coming,” was the last message she received from her parents before communications were cut. Romain, like many others in the local Haitian community, can only wait and pray for news to begin to flow out of Haiti.
“I’m praying for God to help them,” Romain said. “We can’t do anything right now, but God can. It’s our friends and family, but it’s our country, too. The water is taking people and carrying them away, and it hurts.”
Surcha was one of the lucky ones to get through as the storm began to menace the island’s shores, but communication has gone silent.
Hurricane Matthew was expected to bring sea surges of between seven and 10 feet. While the southern peninsula was most at risk from the hurricane, all of Haiti is threatened, according to officials.
“My concern is that a lot of people are going to need help because my family was saying last night that the damage was already too great, and they wouldn’t be able to repair anything. There was too much water, and they said they already lost everything. I haven’t been able to talk to them since then, so I’m very worried.”
Amoss Jerome owns the Sunshine Caribbean Restaurant in Oneco. He’s spent the past 34 years in America trying to help support his father and nine brothers and sisters who still live in Haiti. He and his chef were glued to the television Tuesday morning.
“It’s not about making money today,” Jerome said. “I haven’t been able to get through to anyone. I’m just waiting for news.”
Making matters worse, Jerome said the emergency communications aren’t the greatest in Haiti and very often the local population will wait until “the trees are bending over and roofs are flying off before they try to escape and then it’s too late. They don’t know what to do.”
The country is still reeling from the 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake where fatality estimates range from 100,000 to 160,000 people. Both Jerome and Romain said the country’s infrastructure has improved “a little bit,” but nothing will prepare the nation’s poorest population for the wrath of Hurricane Matthew.
That frustrates Jerome, who said there is no excuse for the people not to be protected.
“We’ve been an independent nation since 1803,” he said. “Sometimes I think the whole nation needs to be cleaned out and rebuilt. That’s why I’m here trying to do everything I can. I want to help.”
For now, the Haitian community can only wait. There is no telling how long it will take for them to get in touch with their loved ones again or to find out how they are. Speaking softly with his eyes glancing back to the TV in the corner of his restaurant, he could only whisper, “Only the Lord knows now.”
Help is coming
Agape Flights, a nonprofit Christian aviation ministry is already planning a relief flight by Friday, “if we can get fuel and if we can land,” said Abby Duncan, communications manager. “We’ve been in contact with our missionaries who are sheltered in a concrete building, but they’ve told us there isn’t much of anything left around them.”
Agape hopes to have a plane loaded and ready to go, however.
“The first phase of the flights will be to bring the necessary things such as shelter tarps, food and water purification tablets because there is sure to be waterborne diseases that emerge from this storm,” Duncan said. “So the first phase will be covering the basic needs and then we will coordinate with our partnering agencies to begin multiple relief flights and we’ll start with the hardest hit areas first.”
Donation needs are listed on Agape’s website. Duncan said material and financial donations will be welcome as the relief efforts will get costly. Agape is a nonprofit organization that delivers cargo, mail and humanitarian aid to the nations of the Caribbean.