Grieving Haitians gather to bury their dead after devastating earthquake

Marceline, Haiti: Families have gathered in villages in south-western Haiti to hold church and funeral services a week after an earthquake devastated the country, killing more than 2200 people and destroying tens of thousands of buildings.

The collapse of churches in some of the worst-affected towns and villages of the impoverished nation left many residents to grieve in open fields.

The earthquake has left this cathedral in Les Cayes open to the elements.Credit:AP

At the Paroisse Saint-Joseph De Simon Roman Catholic Church on the outskirts of Les Cayes, the south-western city that bore the brunt of the quake, about 200 worshippers gathered early for the first Sunday mass since the disaster.

“Everyone was crying today for what they had lost. And everyone is stressed because the earth is still shaking,” said the priest, Marc Orel Saël, referring aftershocks that have rattled nerves.

The quake struck Haiti amid a period of extreme political upheaval following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Allegations set out in a report by a local human rights group stirred fresh ferment at the weekend.

Mexican firefighters search rubble in the town of Les Cayes.Credit:AP

The report into Moise’s killing by the National Human Rights Defence Network (RNDDH) alleged that new Prime Minister Ariel Henry had spoken on the night of the assassination by telephone to one of the main suspects, Joseph Felix Badio.

Jean-Junior Joseph, a close aide to Henry, wrote on Twitter on Saturday afternoon that the Prime Minister had told him he had “never spoken” to Badio, a former Haitian official.

Grief on every corner

In the village of Marceline, dozens of mourners gathered in front of a decimated Roman Catholic school to hold a funeral service for four members of the same family who died in the magnitude 7.2 quake.

Food bags are handed out to earthquake survivors in Les Cayes.Credit:AP

Men and women wept on Saturday over the four white coffins: three small ones for the children and one larger one for the family’s matriarch, 90-year-old Marie Rose Morin.

“I’m distraught looking at these coffins,” said Edouard Morin, her son.

Edouard was also burying his daughter, Kelly, 15, his niece Wood-Langie, 10, and his nephew, Carl-Handy, 4.

“I would feel better if I were being buried in the same grave as my mother,” he said.

The four-way funeral cost $US1750 ($2450), a huge sum for farmers in rural parts of a nation where per capita gross domestic product is less than $US1200, according to World Bank data.

Franck Morin, Wood-Langie’s father, recalled how he had left for work as a driver only minutes before the ground began to shake. He rushed back, only to find his wife bleeding from her legs and sobbing in front of the heap that was once their home.

The two of them dug through the rubble for two days until they found their daughter’s body.

“She was loved by the whole community, she was always dancing in church,” said Morin.

Francois Elmay is laid to rest in his family tomb in Les Cayes.Credit:AP

Outside another Catholic Church overlooking the main park in Les Cayes, dozens of worshippers gathered for Sunday mass in the yard adjacent to the damaged cathedral.

“Let’s go fulfil the work of the Lord,” the priest intoned solemnly as he closed out the ceremony.

Last Saturday’s quake has claimed the lives of at least 2207 people so far. At least 344 people are still missing, while 12,268 people were injured, authorities said. The disaster followed a devastating temblor in 2010 that killed tens of thousands of people.

Recovery efforts have been impeded by flooding and damage to access roads, feeding tensions in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Exasperation over delays in assistance began to boil over in recent days, with residents looting aid trucks in several towns across the south, stirring concerns about security.


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