August 17, 2021 | Port-au-Prince, Haiti, | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

More than 1,400 deaths have been reported after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on Saturday. Today, Seventh-day Adventist leaders confirmed that 12 church members were among them.

“I am overwhelmed with sadness with all the reports and photographs coming in from our church leadership in the south mission territory,” said Pastor Pierre Caporal, president of the church in Haiti. “We don’t know the whereabouts of many of our members because there are roads and towns not passable because of the tremendous damage of the earthquake.”

Several persons peek through what remains of an Adventist Church in the southern peninsula in Haiti after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the region on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Twelve church members have been confirmed dead and dozens missing, as well as several churches and schools destroyed and or damaged. Many church members have been injured and left homeless, while the country’s death toll figures have surpassed 1,400. [Photo: Haitian Union]

Members still missing

Caporal, who has been monitoring the situation from Port-au-Prince, said the casualty numbers continue to rise.

“So far, we know that 21 members have been injured and 20 homes among the membership were destroyed,” he said. Church leaders are still waiting to hear updates on the most impassable areas and have created a special committee to ascertain the most pressing needs within the church community.

Five Adventist churches were destroyed and seven more were partially damaged, reported Caporal. Six schools were also damaged.

“People are still very afraid as aftershocks have been felt after the initial earthquake,” said Caporal. “Many fear a tsunami.”

One of five Seventh-day Adventist Churches that was destroyed by the earthquake in the southern peninsula in Haiti, on Aug. 14, 2021. [Photo: Haitian Union]

It’s hard to forget the destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake which hit Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000, he said. Now, with Tropical Storm Grace bringing heavy rains to the island, “the effect of disasters are very vivid in the minds of so many.”

ADRA Haiti has been on the ground assessing the most pressing needs in the community hours after the earthquake hit, said Caporal.

A team of doctors and nurses were sent by the union office with some staff from the Adventist hospital to Les Cayes, a coastal town in the southern peninsula hit hard by the earthquake, to assess and help those with the greatest needs, said Caporal. “We will continue to monitor and work on providing assistance to our affected members.”

One of the damaged church operated properties in South Haiti that was affected by the recent earthquake. [Photo: Haitian Union]

Adventist hospital providing around-the-clock care

Hôpital Adventiste d’Haïti, nestled in Diquini, Carrefour, in Port-au-Prince, has seen patients non-stop since 5:00 pm on Aug. 14, said Dr. Scott Nelson, chief medical officer and orthopedic surgeon at Haiti Adventist Hospital.  “Since Saturday afternoon we started operating all through the night, all day Sunday and all day Monday,” said Dr. Nelson. Patients have been pouring into the hospital taking up the extra 22 beds set up in the new ward which has been under renovation.   “Some patients have been placed on the floor, others outside even through the tropical storm hitting us.”

The large majority of patients require orthopedic surgery and patients continue to be referred to the hospital for surgery, explained Scott. “One patient came in from Les Cayes after she was running out of the building when it began to collapse, the man who was escaping next to her did not make it out,” he said. “She came to us with femur fractures on both legs and we were able to operate on her. She did well and tomorrow she will be able to get up.”

Injured patients from the recent earthquake are being triaged at Haiti Adventist Hospital for further medical treatment.[Photo: Courtesy of Scott Nelson]

The hospital has set up six tents outside to assist the flow of injured patients, said Jere Chrispens, administrator of Haiti Adventist Hospital. “Our hospital is unique in providing trauma surgery and remains focused on our patients who can be in and out and in recovery,” said Chrispens. Many area hospitals are sending in patients for surgery in exchange for postoperative care, he added.

“Our surgery teams have been working 16-20 hours a day in each of the three operating suites in the hospital,” said Chrispens. “This can go on for weeks.”

Working 50 percent over capacity

Five medical personnel staff from Loma Linda University and other parts of the United States will be arriving in Haiti throughout the week to provide relief to the medical staff who have been working around the clock, according to Chrispens. In addition, about 10-12 local church volunteers have been assisting in the kitchen and laundry services, he said.

A young person from South Haiti with an leg injury is taken into the hospital for medical attention. [Photo: Courtesy of Scott Nelson]

“Our hospital is more than 50 percent over capacity,” said Chrispen. The hospital normally has 50 beds available, 36 for adults and 14 for pediatrics, but with the increasing number of patients, the hospital is making room for 60-65 beds for adult care, he added.

A team from Loma Linda University will continue to coordinate the travel of medical personnel who will assist with surgeries in the coming weeks, said Chrispens. In addition, needed medical supplies are being shipped to the hospital in the coming days. “We are working on combining efforts with the union, hospital and ADRA Haiti to assist those victims,” he said.

Better trained hospital staff to face crisis

The magnitude of the injured victims does not compare with the influx of patients that overwhelmed the hospital 11 years ago, said Chrispens, but the hospital, which has a staff of 200, has been working hard to care for injured victims, even the regular outpatient emergency cases that occur every day.

A hallway at the Adventist hospital is crowded with injured patients this weekend. The hospital is operating at 50 percent over capacity with the influx of injured persons needing surgery and treatment from the recent earthquake.[Photo: Courtesy of Scott Nelson]

“The injuries that we are seeing are not foreign to us, as we have lots of experience from 11 years ago,” said Dr. Nelson, who has performed hundreds of orthopedic surgeries since 2010. The difference is that the hospital and staff are much more prepared to face this crisis and make a big difference for the people affected by this disaster.” The hospital is committed to long-term care, such as rehabilitation and additional operations, he added.

“We are privileged to be here and take care of these amazing people,” said Nelson. “It is wonderful to be able to witness the healing that comes from above and see our patients already starting to get up and about after having major operations.”

Part of an entrance sign to Haiti Adventist Hospital located in Diquini, Carrefour, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. [Photo: Courtesy of Scott Nelson]

Members to remain alert

The recent earthquake is a reminder of what the Bible says about the end times, said Caporal.

“We are facing many challenges, but we need to fix our eyes upon Jesus for we know all these events are signs around the world that He is coming very soon,” said Caporal, who resonates that message daily in meetings, to leaders, members, and people in the community on the church’s Voix de l’Esperance radio station. “As we bring comfort and assistance, we want people to know we are meant to be alive and vigilant at this time for our deliverance is very near,” Caporal said.

For updates on the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Haiti in aftermath of the recent earthquake, visit us at interamerica.org

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