Haitians return to quake-damaged churches, gangs offer aid

LES CAYES, Haiti – Haitians resumed services in damaged churches on Sunday, some for the first time since the devastating 7.2 earthquake on August 14, when the country’s civil protection agency raised the death toll to 2,207.

The new toll comes at a time when relief efforts are expanding, but authorities are struggling with security at distribution points. Gangs have hijacked aid trucks and even ambulances and are forcing aid workers to transport relief supplies by helicopter. In some places, desperate crowds have fought for bags of food.

On Sunday, one of the capital’s most powerful gangsters announced in a social media video that its allied gangs had reached a ceasefire and would support the relief effort. If this turns out to be true, it could allow relief efforts to be accelerated.

Jimmy Cherizier, aka “Barbecue”, leader of the G9 Revolutionary Forces, posted a Facebook video on the hardest hit parts of the southwestern peninsula of Haiti.

“We want to tell them that the G9 revolutionary forces and allies sympathize, all for one and one for all, with their pain and distress,” said Cherizier. “The G9 Revolutionary Forces and allies … will participate in the relief by bringing aid to them. We invite all compatriots to show solidarity with the victims by trying to share what little with them. “

The death toll was the first since late Wednesday when the government put it at 2,189. The government said on Sunday that 344 people were missing, 12,268 people injured and nearly 53,000 homes were destroyed by the quake.

Many in Les Cayes went to church to mourn the lost and to give thanks for their own survival.

In a Protestant church in the Bergeaud district, parishioners sang hymns in the sunlight streaming through holes in the roof and walls.

Pastor Sevrain Marc Dix Jonas said the service on Sunday was special because his congregation has not been able to meet since the earthquake.

“Today was a must,” said Dix Jonas, who was standing under a gaping opening high in the facade of his church. “To thank God. He protected us. We did not die. “

His church was one of the few where parishioners could worship. At many others, services were held on the streets in front of collapsed shrines.

With this in mind, the Roman Catholic Church in Les Cayes rescheduled its morning service to 6:30 a.m. to avoid the heat of the day.

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