Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike and HCH, Mirebalais Haiti

From Melinda Smith in Mirebalais Haiti:

The children's home was not flooded although the water came within 20 feet of our perimeter. Most of our neighbors that are on the side toward the river were completely flooded out with some of their homes being completely covered by water! No one was killed, thank the Lord but several were hurt and the terror was beyond anything I can explain as the flooding took place at 2 -3 am and many woke up to the water already high in their homes. One man tells of frantically looking for his two year old in the murky water, in the dark when she fell as they were trying to run. He did find her and was able to pull her out before she drownd.

We had to evacuate as the water kept rising and we felt it wasn't safe to keep the children in the home. At 2 am I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep but didn't realize why at that point. I sat and read a book and then I began to hear the noise from the rising river never dreaming that it would ever be able to come clear up to our neighborhood. Around 3 am I went down the hall and listened and I began to get concerned as it was obvious that the river was quickly reaching our neighborhood as it sounded like it was right outside our gate. I tried to call some of the neighbors to let them know that they needed to evacuate but the phone service was down and I couldn't get through. A few minutes later I hear screaming and lots of it. I knew immediately that some their homes had flooded. I called for our night staff and asked her to go downstairs and wake up the children and start carrying the toddlers upstairs (the babies live upstairs). I went and woke up our 2 volunteers and my mom. I don't think I have ever had an adrenaline rush as huge as that night. Our power was out and the stress was overwhelming as we ran room to room making sure we weren't leaving any little ones behind. As the ladies and I ran from one room to the next suddenly a group of young men from the area came bursting into the house screaming, "get the children, the river is coming." They helped us and within 5 minutes we had all the children safely upstairs. We went back down to get clothing etc.

In the meantime, Thym went to see if the road was still clear so we could evacuate and it was but by time we loaded 15 infants including the 3 premature babies and 25 children in the truck and were ready to leave, the road was covered high with water and the truck could not get through. We unloaded the children and decided to just keep everyone on the 2nd floor of the house and pray for God's mercy as we didn't know what else to do. Thym continued to look around the area to see what we could do to evacuate at least my mom and the children to the hospital up the hill to a safer place. After about an hour and a half he came home with a solution. The neighbors up the hill (so away from the river) had agreed to allow him to drive our truck through their gardens and out to the main road. Thym knew that our new truck would not make it as it lacks height and the engine is not powerful enough so he prayed a prayer and fired up the old Toyota. Within minutes we had my mom and most of the children in the truck. Thym made 2 more trips and got everyone to safety. I stayed behind to pack the necessary items, make arrangements for food, get bedding together and boil drinking water and sterilize enough bottles for all the babies (15) for 24 hours. One of the most amazing things about this part of the story is that the Toyota had not been used for several days because it was out of gas and we were not able to get any. The truck made 3 trips over off-road muddy terraine on E. Isn't God wonderful. His miracles never end.

The water never did reach the children's home. It did come within 20 feet on one side and several yards on another but it didn't come in. There were homes straight across from us that were completely flooded but the water never came in our gates. The local people say it was the work of the angel of the Lord. They say that God put his angels around our home and kept the water out. It is the only explanation really. We are grateful for His faithfulness and mercy.

We spent 1 day at the hospital and by then the water had gone down enough that there was no longer a risk and the rain had stopped and the road was clear. We were so grateful to the hospital for taking us in but keeping 40 children (premature infants to 12 years) and all their stuff in a 12x14 square is a difficult task. The children were so crowded that they could hardly sleep and kept rolling on top of each other as they were spread out all over the floor. At 4 am Monday, I woke up our oldest boy (12 years) and had him start helping me load the truck. We then woke up the 7 school age boys and we headed home with the first load of stuff. The children were so excited when they found out not only were they going home but they could have a bath (the local hospital has no water). One 6 year old boy bounced up and down and on the seat of the truck and said in a sing-song kind of voice: "We get to take a bath, we get to take a bath." By 6am all the children were home. They were so tired and worn out from the whole ordeal that all of them took a nap that afternoon.

The destruction caused by the flooding is wide spread here. The river flooded so badly and the current was so strong that it pulled up everything in its path including homes, heavy equipment from the UN base outside of our village and anything else in it's path. All this debri collected at the bridge on the main road between us and the local village, finally the bridge could not stand up to the pressure and was ripped out completely. With the bridge out the only way from here to there now is by a rough hand-made canoe. This means we have no way out in case of emergency between 5pm and 5am and we can no longer get in our vehicles and go to the village or to Port-au-Prince.

The past few days we have spent every minute we can trying to help those in need. Up in the village there are hundreds whose homes were destroyed by the river. On Tuesday the mayor asked us for help with clothing, blankets and whatever we could give. He said there were 25 naked babies at the shelter and he had nothing to give their parents to put on them. We went through our storage shed and sent several totes full of baby pajamas, blankets, and chidren's clothing across the river to them.

Wednesday and Thursday we went from home to home cleaning up piles of mud, scrubbing floors and walls and doing whatever needed to be done to help the people get back into their homes. All of the homes near us were able to be clean and can be repaired but many of those up in the village are completely destroyed.

Yesterday afternoon we delivered several plastic totes of children's clothing, blankets and shoes to our neighbors homes as many of them lost everything in the flood. We hope to be able to help them more in the coming weeks as the Lord provides. Hunger will become even more prevelent than before over the next several months as everyone in our area lost their gardens. Even the plantain trees were destroyed which means this storm will effect some for up to a year an half from now as plantain trees bear fruit in 12 to 18 months and plantains are a staple here.


Kathy said...

That is sad but I'm glad everyone at the O. was safe.

Svitak Family said...

Wow! Amazing!! Let me know if they are in need of a clothing drive or anything. I recently found out that many people from our church go down to Haiti and also my cousin's church in Littleton, CO if there is something we can do let me know!