Parishoners killed in quake-damaged historic Haiti church
Les Anglais (Haiti) (AFP) –
Its bell tower and yellow walls a sharp contrast with Haiti's blue tropical sky, the historic Immaculee Conception church was the pride of Les Anglais, until it was destroyed by an earthquake Saturday, burying several faithful inside.
On August 14, at exactly 8:29 am (1229 GMT), a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southern Haiti, reducing the church's facade and steeple to a pile of rubble in seconds.
At least 17 people were crushed to death by the collapsing wall and roof.
"I had just finished celebrating the 6:30 am morning mass and had entered the presbytery to have coffee before returning to celebrate baptisms" when the quake struck, said parish priest Wilson Exantus Andre.
"The oldest of the deceased was 24 years old. What is hard is that a woman who has only two children, 18 years old and 3 years old, lost them both," the priest, still in shock, told AFP on Monday.
The bodies of all of the victims were pulled out of the ruins of the church.
The massive quake killed more than 1,400 people across Haiti, according to a preliminary official report out Monday.
- Just seconds -
"It was a beautiful church with very beautiful architecture," said the priest. "It was part of the national heritage, it was the pride of the people of Les Anglais, who never missed an opportunity to talk about it."
But in just a few seconds, the church, built in 1907, was destroyed.
Only part of the nave and the corrugated iron roof withstood the earthquake and its incessant aftershocks. Some of the church's wooden benches were covered in piles of stones that used to be the steeple.
Two people trapped under the rubble were rescued with help from heavy equipment rushed in by workers with a Taiwanese construction company that happened to be working nearby, the priest said.
The survivors were taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Port-a-Piment.
Stunned residents of the coastal hamlet exchanged stories of what they lost in the quake outside the church ruins.
"It's a tragedy really, we can't believe how it all fell so quickly," one of them said.
They each spoke of relatives killed during the disaster, as nearby a lone child's shoe, black in color but now covered in white dust, lay in the church square.
© 2021 AFP