Friday, January 22, 2010

CSI Update



On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, at approximately 4:50 P.M., a terrible earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the country of Haiti, near the city of Port Au Prince, on the island of Hispaniola.

Within 2 hours of Haiti being hit with a devastating 7.0 earthquake, the CSI team began working immediately on a plan of action for the S.M.A.R.T. Team to reach Haiti as soon as possible. By the next morning, a conference call was made between Brother John Hopkins, Brother Scotty Slaydon, Brother Ron Brian (our missionaries to Haiti here on furlough), Brother Danny Wilkerson (former missionary to Haiti), Brother Steve Shirley (in Dominican Republic), Brother Brazzel and Brother Mark Hattabaugh. A plan of action was formulated that included immediate deployment. We began securing supplies and medications to take with us and a satellite phone was rented and shipped out immediately to us.

Within 45 hours (Thursday at 2:30 P.M.) our first team member, Brother Toby Brazzel, arrived on site in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, our initial staging area. He began purchasing all the supplies we did not bring with us on the plane. By 8:30 P.M. the rest of the team flew in from Miami: Ron & Terry Brian, Danny Wilkerson, Mark Hattabaugh with a load of supplies and medicines. American Airlines waved the fees for the huge duffle bags that were grossly overweight with medicines and supplies.

We reviewed our plan of action with the team, adjusting with the continual change of information given to us regarding the situation in Haiti, transportation options and road conditions.

Early on the next morning, after purchasing 2 batteries for our vehicles in Haiti, redistributing the weight on the bus and purchasing a water tank to take fuel with us, the team headed for the Haitian border in the bus provided by Missionary Steve Shirley and the Dominican UPCI church. We were loaded with thousands of pounds of food, supplies and equipment.

By noon we were in the city of Barahona, where we connected with the Haitian Consulate in Barahona, Mr. Francois and his wife, members of the UPCI of the Dominican Republic. They accompanied us all the way into Haiti and we were escorted through the border in an expedited manner, rushing us ahead of all the people and vehicles waiting in line to cross.

When we arrived into Port Au Prince, it was already dark; we faced many challenges of traffic and road closures due to debris and bridges out. Trying to navigate through the streets finding clear passage took us into a narrow alley where we were blocked in due to a truck stuck in a turn ahead. We could not see and immediately realized the serious position we were in. People were walking around us and seeing our supplies began to alert others of our goods. About that time, the cars behind us backed out and allowed us to back out onto the main street.

There were many people filling the streets. While there, another aftershock hit and what seemed like a shot went off and people went running passed our bus, we realized it may have been a falling rock from a building hitting the top of a tin roof near the road.

We were allowed passage through the closed streets due to our markings that we were an AID organization.

We were headed immediately to our compound which houses our National Offices for the UPCI, the home of Brother & Sister Ron Brian, the National Bible School, and a tabernacle. Tears came to the eyes of the team when upon making some final turns, looking across the vacant properties, we could see a crowd of people gathered in the street in front of the compound and the walls of the compound were destroyed.

We found our personnel who was still guarding the compound and had tied up the 2 Doberman watch dogs and was safe. Through tears we began asking about members of the UPCI and personnel of the compound to see their where they were and their condition. The only person we had word on was Pastor LaPorte, our national representative in Haiti for the UPCI, which had checked in, but had not enough information on his family or the rest of the pastors or churches.

All the people of the neighborhood were sleeping in the streets. Many were injured and suffering in pain. We assessed the damage of the compound, walking with flashlights the perimeter first, then into the many buildings and rooms. The structure appeared to have survived with some damage to some walls, but our missionary's home inside was a mess, with much of the furniture destroyed. Sis. Terry went through pictures that had fallen from the shelves and found a picture of Elsie and her daughters. She brought it with us to help us find and identify her.

After surveying and offering first aid, food, and supplies to the many families sleeping in the streets in front of the compound, we headed to the compound where we were staying. That location was about 6 miles out of town and was a safe compound that had suffered very minor damage.

Upon arriving there, that night the team began working on different areas. One of our first goals was to get the 2 missionary vehicles that were stored on this compound up and running. They had been vandalized and batteries stolen and wires cut, etc. The other team members worked on sorting through all the supplies and medicines brought in preparing for our deployment the next morning into the city of Port Au Prince.

After a short night, we headed out early the next morning for the compound with a team we had met to administer more first aid to all the people sleeping on the street in front of our compound (all neighbors from the area). We were able to survey in daylight all the buildings and walls and further assess damages done by this huge earthquake.

Our next plan of action was to find and connect with our people that we had not heard from. Elsie, our lady who's been a part of the missionary family and working on the compound for many years, was our first mission. What normally would take 1/2 hour of travel had turned into about 2 hours of detours and navigation. Finding the street where she lived was impossible due to the devastation, we got as close as we could and had to walk in from there. Huge buildings were down in the back alleys and dead corpses laid on the side of the street. A large Caterpillar tractor was trying to get through the rubble in search for people and clearing the narrow roads for more crews to pass. The stench and smell of death and decaying bodies was all around and even with our masks on, it was a difficult thing to ignore.

Rounding the narrow streets and narrow alleys, the team came to a place where they could view the side of a hill where all the houses had crumbled down the hill onto each other. We would not reach all the way to Elsie's house, however could find some neighbors whom we showed the picture of Elsie and her daughters. One man recognized her and said they had survived and were staying on the main road with all the other neighbors in the community.

After passing back by the bodies and the many people asking us for more masks for them, we went to the main street and found a crowded area with many people from the neighborhood who were all sleeping on the street together. Water was being delivered by a large water truck into buckets and other supplies dropped off.

We showed the picture to people in desperation to find Elsie and her daughters. We were pointed in a general direction into the people in the crowd. We waded through the people towards the direction where we were pointed. When our eyes found her, we began to all cry and weep. We hugged and prayed together and thanked God for protection. All the crowed was amazed that these Americans would come all the way to find one of them in this horrible devastation. We found out her sister died in the earthquake but the rest was OK. We offered to take her to the compound and relocate her, but she was ok there for one more day and then was going to move to her other sister's home. We left enough supplies and food for her and the many people with her and headed out in search for Pastor LaPorte.

Again, navigating through crowded streets, past the many destroyed buildings, we went up into the back alleys, as far as we could with the bus, then had to walk through the mayhem of people and crowded streets. We finally arrived at his house and found his wife outside. The look on her face was complete astonishment! She was so amazed to see us. Quickly embraced us and told us to come into their home, which was still standing and built very well. She was overwhelmed and ran up the stairs calling on her husband, Pastor LaPorte. He came down from the upstairs and we all cried and embraced. We began asking about the churches and the pastors, by this time he had not had much contact with any of them since the cell towers.

We were fortunate to have brought with us the rented Satellite phone, even though you had to be outside and clear of obstructions, worked quite well and kept us in touch with the "CSI Central Command" in the USA, Bro. Slaydon and Bro. Hopkins.

Pastor LaPorte told us of 3 of our churches that he knew of were well and had suffered some damage but were still standing. By now we have found out that all the national team of leaders has survived, and only one church was destroyed. Pastor LaPorte told us of 4 members he knew of that had lost their lives.

We asked Pastor LaPorte to join us in traveling to Louisiana Tabernacle, one of our larger churches that we had not heard from. We found the pastor and wife in the street, and surveyed the building. There was damage to the building and it remains to be seen after the professional assessment of the building as to how much structural damage was done and how much will be needed to repair.

The team then continued surveying the areas affected by the earthquake and tried to make it back to the compound to get the vehicles running. We were able to get the truck started, and when we did, it was like a wave of relief on all the team! Bro. Steve Shirley continued working on the SUV and by morning he had it running again.

The next morning (Sunday), the team headed back into town to find our contact that will get the part of the team headed out that day, back across the border. We found the house of Consulate Francois. He was not there, for he had left early that morning to go across the border to get water supplies for all the policemen who were dying of thirst.

After a quick good bye to the rest of the team who would stay behind, Brother and Sister Brian and Brother Danny Wilkerson, the rest of the team headed to the border where we planned to meet Francois. After waiting for him for over 1 hour, and our bus being hit (crashed) by another passing bus (no damage was done due to our large bumpers added to the structure of the bus). Mr. Francois met us and again was able to get us through the border in a timely quick manner. We then headed back to Barahona and then home to Santo Domingo. We arrived around 8 P.M.

Team member Mark Hattabaugh left for the airport at 3:30 Monday morning and Toby Brazzel left by 2:30 that afternoon.

After having served C.S.I. on the 8.0 earthquake in Peru in 2007, which suffered the loss of only 540 lives, this is so much larger a disaster with estimated loss of lives between 70,000 to 250,000 people.

Condition of the country:

· People sleeping and living in the streets.

· We had to navigate and wait in certain times for the people to move their blankets out of the way to get our bus by.

· So much of downtown buildings were destroyed.

· Bodies on the streets wrapped or just covered with a cloth

· Of the buildings left standing, many are leaning, or missing a floor, a 2 story building may seem to be standing, until you realize the whole bottom floor is crumbled and the top stories just resting on it.

· The few buildings that were standing, especially downtown, they still had cracks and visible concerning damage as to the structures.

· We saw many teams coming in and special forces from countries all over the world

· We saw food and water still available for sale on the sidewalk markets a little outside of downtown, but our opinion is that once that it ran out, it was going to add to the mayhem and desperation.

Thank you, Bro. Steve Shirley, for the great help you gave us with the bus, driver, going with us, and all your help.

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