‘We are always on our knees:’ Haitians in Philly react to earthquake on island

The earthquake struck on Saturday morning in Haiti’s southwest peninsula, about 78 miles west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

By: - August 17, 2021 6:30 am

Jemimah Labady (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Michael D’Onofrio).

By Michael D’Onofrio

Resident Sam Woodmark blamed the Haitian government for the destruction brought by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit the island nation this weekend.

Sam Woodmark (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Michael D’Onofrio).

While he sat in his idling car on the 6300 block of Rising Sun Avenue on Monday, Woodmark, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1997, says the Haitian officials failed to safeguard and prepare the island for another earthquake following the 2010 temblor.

“The damage we have now, a lot of people got killed in the second earthquake in Haiti — they (government officials) didn’t prepare for that,” said Woodmark, a truck driver. “That’s why a lot of people got killed.”

The death toll from the earthquake reached nearly 1,300 and injured at least 5,700 people, according to The Associated Press.

The earthquake struck on Saturday morning in Haiti’s southwest peninsula, about 78 miles west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck closer to Port-au-Prince, a more densely populated area.

Carine Dorlus, 30, founder of the nonprofit Philadelphians for Haiti, said she was “extremely devastated” upon hearing about the earthquake.

“Haiti is country that’s been fighting since they had been abolished from slavery,” Dorlus said. “And we do not need another natural disaster.”

Dorlus said she has scores of family members in Haiti, most of whom live in the north of the island and are safe after the earthquake. But she has heard an home for the elderly and an orphanage run by one of the group’s partner organizations were destroyed.

Dorlus said she intended to go to the island with volunteers before the year’s end to help Haiti clean up and rebuild. While waiting to determine when it is safe to travel there, she anticipated fundraising for the mission.

Inside Fritay Lakay Restaurant & Bakery, which serves traditional Haitian dishes, Carmelle, who declined to give her last name, said news of yet another earthquake was “very disturbing.”

Carmelle said the “Haitian people have been through a lot,” ticking off the 2010 earthquake and assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July.

“We don’t have any break,” she said. “We are always on our knees.”

Hairstylist Jemimah Labady, 24, said her family in Haiti were sleeping in the streets because their home was extensively damaged in the earthquake.

“My heart is broken,” said Labady while working inside Dina’s African Hair Braiding.

Beyond the earthquake, Woodmark said the Caribbean island suffers from widespread violence, kidnappings and security concerns, all of which have prevented him from visiting his home more regularly in recent years.

“I’m scared to go back there now,” he said.

Dorlus, an administrator at a Southwest Philadelphian daycare center, remained hopeful that Haiti could recover with the aid of international help.

“I know Haiti is going to overcome all of this,” she said. “There’s still hope for Haiti. There’s still a future for Haiti.”

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared. 

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