Wednesday, November 12, 2008

school collapse - haiti update - november 11, 2008

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Hi! The tragedy at La Promesse College Evangelique affected a member of our family here at Coram Deo. Samuel Marcelin is a teacher who works at a local Christian mission school and lives here at Coram Deo. His cousin Gerta was the secretary at the La Promesse school. She was also a student in the afternoons attending a professional program at the school. She was sitting at her desk in the school office when the school collapsed around 10:30am last Friday morning. She was trapped under the rubble until late Saturday afternoon when searchers found her. She was pinned and her lower leg had been amputated. She was conscious when removed from the rubble and was rushed in an ambulance to the Medecins Sans Frontieres Hospital in the Delmas 19 area. She talked with the workers in the ambulance and gave them her name and family information. She told them about her family, the Marcelin family who lived in the Delmas 31 area and gave the workers her family’s telephone number. The family was called and told that she had been rescued and was in hospital. Shortly after arriving at the hospital her condition deteriorated and she died. The falling concrete had damaged her body too much in order for her to survive. She was only 26 years old. Officially she is body number 93 recovered from the collapsed school. Gerta was engaged to be married and the marriage was scheduled to take place in December. Her fiancé was a secondary school teacher at the same school and he happened to be in the office too at the time of the collapse. The falling concrete killed him. His body was recovered and taken to the morgue. Now the families instead of planning a marriage ceremony will be planning a funeral for this couple. Both of them are Christians and are now together in heaven. Keep the families in prayer as they now make funeral arrangements.
On Saturday the UN and Haitian police secured the areas around the school preventing people access to the site. This gave the rescue teams more room to work and improve access to emergency vehicles. Special rescue teams from Martinique and the United States came in with search dogs and other equipment to look for survivors. On Saturday only 4 survivors were pulled from the rubble. In total 150 people were treated for injuries at the Medecins Sans Frontieres Hospital and also at General Hospital. The residents at this state hospital called off their 4-week strike and treated the injured from the school. We were at the emergency room on Saturday and it was a busy place. The medical staff did all they could to help these children and looked after them well. The people who were in the emergency room during the strike were transferred to the orthopedics department at the hospital. Parents of the school children were searching from hospital to hospital to find word on their missing children. At General Hospital a list was posted outside with names of children who had been treated. At the Medecins Sans Frontieres Hospital, a worker there would search for names on their list as families came seeking for information.
On Sunday Samuel was near the school site along with some other people. A young woman was upset and pleading with the police for help. She had been in cell phone contact with her sister who was a kindergarten teacher at the school and was trapped in the rubble in the lowest level along with her students. She had told her sister that herself and 12 of her students were still alive and within the rubble. There were a lot of Haitian men who wanted the rescue process to speed up and they felt that time was being lost. In the end a large group approached the school site and riot police sent them back. The Haitian people are very determined and were willing to tear down the school by hand. Since Saturday there have been no survivors removed from the rubble. I don’t know what happened to this kindergarten teacher and her students.
The mother who last Friday was waiting for word on her 5 missing children now knows what happened to them. All 5 were killed in the school collapse. 3 of her children were in the philo and rheto classes, which are the last 2 years of secondary school.
We were at General Hospital today and all the students who were in the emergency room have now either been discharged or transferred to other departments in the hospital. The busiest area at the hospital today was the morgue. There were at least 50 people waiting outside making burial arrangements. The government has said that they would help the families with funerals. Samuel’s family will be contacting the mayor’s office in Petionville tomorrow for information. Other schools in the area have offered to take in the displaced surviving students from the La Promesse School. The pastor/owner of the school built the school himself without the assistance of an engineer. The amount of cement and the amount of rebar used was less than what is required. The pastor/owner of the school has been arrested and charged with involuntary homicide and is currently in jail awaiting judicial proceedings. There is still a lot of rubble to remove and the search and body recovery process is ongoing. In the Petionville district where the school was located the mayor has announced that Tuesday and Wednesday are 2 days of mourning for the victims. Pray for the families of all those who lost their lives and for the searchers as they continue to look for survivors and recover bodies. Pray also for the injured who are recovering from their injuries in hospital.
There is a lot going on. I thought that I would send out a mid-week update.
Have a good week!

Karen Bultje, Coram Deo


Christine said...

Thank you for the update, Karen. Our seven are praying for these families, and all of you who are bringing aid to the hurt.

Jim Dewar said...

Karen: Kim, Travis & I are coming again in January. We're bringing a young pediatrician, Anita McElroy, who needs to talk to you about how she can contribute & what she can bring. Please let us know asap how best to get you in touch with her. Thanks!

Trish said...

Hi Karen, I was so excited to find you had a blog. We have met several times - I'm the one who used to come with Bro. Joe to take photos. I will be coming to Haiti very soon with Mission Support International (team led by Jerry Cheatham)and I understand we will be doing some work at your school. How many students do you have now? The tradegies in Haiti this year have been heartbreaking to hear about and I know it's been even worse for you to be there. I pray you are doing okay and I look forward to seeing you and the children again! God Bless you for all you are doing. : )