News Articles

Storms kill 150 in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–Mudslides, washed-out roads and massive flooding hampered Florida Baptists’ efforts to feed the hungry in Haiti where three tropical storms in as many weeks have killed at least 150 people and destroyed crops and other livelihoods.

The impoverished nation that shares an island with the Dominican Republic already was reeling from the massive rainfall produced by Tropical Storms Fay and Gustav before Hanna brought additional rains to the waterlogged country Sept. 3.

The killer storms left an estimated 15,000 animals dead and destroyed nearly 25,000 gardens, a source of food and income for many in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.

The heavy rains and strong winds also were responsible for the destruction of 34 churches and the homes of 27 pastors. Another 64 churches and 23 homes received damage in the storms.

With no relief in sight, the Haitians appear again to be in the aim of another storm as Hurricane Ike is targeting the Caribbean nation. Supporting a decade-long partnership, Florida Baptist Convention staff arrived in Port-au-Prince Sept. 1 to oversee the distribution of rice through Haitian churches.

The state convention underwrites the salaries of a national ministry director and six regional directors of missions in Haiti who supervised the delivery of food to the pastors.

“It was wonderful to see the eyes of the Haitians as we handed out the rice to feed their families,” said Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida convention’s partnership missions department.

“We were told, ‘Thanks for not forgetting about us,'” Culbreth, who was on the ground in Haiti, said.

Each family was given enough rice for four people for three days. The first feeding, which provided nourishment to 2,800 families — or 11,200 people — was completed Wednesday at a cost of $12,000.

Culbreth told of the difficulties they encountered while traveling outside Port-au-Prince to other villages across the nation.

“We faced a mudslide in one place and a river or lake that flooded out the road in another as we sought to do food distributions in three locations,” Culbreth said. “We were able to do the final one in Port-au-Prince as the road conditions blocked us [from] being involved with the first two.”

While the group “never got past the mudslide, we sent a pastor in a boat to do the second distribution in the southern part of Haiti where the road was flooded,” he added.

Culbreth expected the mudslide to be cleared within the week so that relief can reach the southern city of Jacmil. He expressed concern about the city of Gonaives, where 110,000 people live and floodwaters were said to be 12 feet high.

A second feeding is expected to be finished Monday.

“A second feeding is vital,” said Cecil Seagle, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s missions division. “We may have to do more after the next two storms clear, but at this point we can do no less.”

Seagle reported that an additional $12,000 has been sent to provide construction assistance to affected churches and pastors and to aid in the second food distribution.

“The money will provide funding for food and meager assistance for our pastors and directors of missions who have no place to live or are in desperate need of tin for repairs,” Seagle said.

Culbreth was accompanied on the trip by Rick Lawrence, director of the convention’s church planting department, and Colman Pratt, pastor of Union Park First Baptist Church in Orlando.

The pair was “a great encouragement to the pastors we have met,” Culbreth said. “They have prayed with them and told them, ‘Do not give up. The storm was big, but God is bigger.'”
Lauren Urtel is a writer for the Florida Baptist State Convention. Financial contributions for disaster relief efforts in Haiti may be sent to Business Services, Florida Baptist Convention, P.O. Box 5579, Jacksonville, FL 32247. Checks should be made payable to the Florida Baptist Convention.

    About the Author

  • Lauren Urtel