Eyewitness account from Port-au-Prince: 'Let's keep praying'

Eyewitness account from Elizabeth Moise of events in Port-au-Prince received on January 14, 2010.
Translated by Yolette Ibokette

"I’ve just returned to my house. What I saw is UNIMAGINABLE, UNTHINKABLE….Port-au-Prince is destroyed, in ruins…People everywhere in the streets don’t know what to do…tears, screams, cement and metal, dust…L’Ecole des Soeurs du Sacre Coeur (School of the Sacred Heart) is in ruins: the classrooms, the chapel, the sisters’ residences. L’Eglise du Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Church) and the rectory, Pax Villa, L’Eglise St. Louis Roi de France, Sodec, St. Jean l’Evangeliste, College Marie Anne, College du Canape Vert, Mikaline Kindergarten, Canado, Chez Gourgue, IHECE, Citibank, DGI, L’University de Port-au-Prince…you name it. Everything down, collapsed. It seems to me that every structure that was more than 3 or 4 floors collapsed like a deck of cards. I didn’t have the courage to take photos…It’s too painful.

Bad news: colleagues who are very close to me are under the rubble…Just the thought of it, I can't help but cry…I feel like I’m running…We try to see if we can cut the cement to free them…The chances are slim, but still, there’s a chance…The waiting is unbearable…I couldn’t wait in front of the Bourdon office and watch very slow attempts (for me) and watch the anguish of husbands, wives, sisters, brothers and parents of my colleagues. A friend of mine lost his wife, but his two daughters survived.

The Cathedral of Port-au-Prince is gone. I also saw markets that were looted: Twin Market, Five Star…I also saw the doors of the Sogeban, the BNC and the Unibank a Turgeau open. I don’t know if their branches were also looted.

We wanted to help a man and woman. The woman was in obvious pain from a wound or a fractured leg. The hospital that is closest to the Rue Berne was closed…We dropped them close to the general hospital…But I learned later that that hospital had collapsed.

My friends, I don’t know what we’re going to do. Port-au-Prince is in RUINS…If a building isn’t collapsed, it’s halfway or almost there. All I saw were people transporting their injured and dead on makeshift stretchers or people clearing rubble. Corpses are lined up along the Canape Vert road. I see no bulldozer, no trucks, nothing to help the survivors. In the middle of the roads, we see entire families, lying on sheets, faces in their hands, tears in their eyes, waiting…People say that there’ll be aftershocks…Indeed, this morning we had some and at the time I write you, there is another aftershock. There’s no way to communicate by telephone; so there are many people that I haven’t contacted…The toll will be heavy. We don’t have the means here in Haiti.

Let’s keep praying.

I try to contact all my friends by telephone, but it’s hard. The most frustrating thing is there is no local news and information…Practically all the radio stations are mute…The building of the Unibank de la Rue Capois has collapsed…I have to go there because of the 50 people who work there, almost half are under my supervision…I no longer have an office, and what I fear the most is that there are no survivors among those who were in the office.

The collapsed hospital in Petionville is the one at the beginning of the Hotel El Rancho on PanAmerican Road. At my house, we lay down in the yard. It’s cold despite the blankets, and I can’t close my eyes. Furthermore, we felt about four or five aftershocks during the night. We were not prepared for this type of catastrophe, neither from a logistic nor psychological point of view…I leave the house with the laptop in the hopes of keeping you informed.

Let’s keep praying.

The situation is grave and terrifying. From time to time, there are small aftershocks. The building where my office is in Bourdon has collapsed. I have no news from my colleagues who were there this afternoon. Telephone communications remain difficult. The traffic jam is terrible…A lot of houses collapsed… It’s terrible…We were not prepared for this catastrophe…I don’t know what else to say. We pray. While I have internet access in front of Gama, the laptop is low on power... Let’s keep praying because I feel some small aftershocks from time to time…I will keep you informed as much as I can. At Gama where I was when the earthquake hit, there was a lot of panic, all the libraries collapsed. There was a lot of damage…The building is damaged and some of its ceramic facade fell down.