Georgians tied to Haiti monitor earthquake aftermath

Shortly after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Saturday morning, Terry Franzen began to get pictures and hear reports showing the devastation that has killed hundreds of people and injured more than 2,500.

A retired Atlanta lawyer who now lives in Jasper, Franzen co-founded a nonprofit that provides medical care in Haiti. The nonprofit’s country director works as a physician at a hospital near the epicenter of the quake in Les Cayes, she said.

“Their surgical suite was destroyed; the house was destroyed. I don’t think they have power. But you know what – they’re still working,” said Franzen, who has made many trips to Haiti, including when she traveled there to help in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 in the impoverished nation.

Saturday’s quake struck a less populous area in Haiti’s southern peninsula, a region that was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Rescuers were still working Sunday to find people in the rubble of collapsed buildings. The epicenter of the earthquake was about 80 miles west of Port-Au-Prince, the capital city where many buildings were flatted in 2010.

Franzen said the nonprofit, Haiti Companions, was still able to operate its clinics in areas not far from the quake that didn’t suffer damage, while the group’s country director was tending to those injured when buildings collapsed. She said she worried about Haiti’s ability to quickly respond to the crisis.

“In the best of times, Haiti is a very difficult place to live,” she said.

Atlantan Ron Apollon, a native of Haiti, said he had been getting photos and videos showing the destruction and people being pulled from the rubble. He said communications networks allowed people to stay in touch with family and friends and report on the conditions. He said his family member in Haiti was not close to the area where so many were killed and injured.

“I’m getting so many (videos) and it’s sad,” he said.

Members of the Haitian community in Atlanta are waiting on more information about conditions before coming up with plans to try to help support the recovery. Apollon said was especially worried Sunday about a tropical storm that was on track to hit the earthquake-ravaged region on Monday.

“I just feel so bad,” Apollon said. “I don’t know how much more a country can take. It’s just one thing after another.”

Haiti has been in a political crisis since its president was assassinated last month. Armed gangs make travel around the country dangerous, and some relief organizations worried that getting doctors and supplies to the hardest-hit areas would be challenging.

Atlanta-based CARE, an international aid organization, works in Haiti and has teams on the ground assessing the damage and providing help to some of the hardest-hit areas. Health centers and schools have been damaged, while hundreds of homes of poor, vulnerable Haitian people have been destroyed, CARE’s team reported, on top of the hundreds of deaths and injuries.

Immediate needs included tents, safe drinking water and food, first aid kids, COVID-19 prevention kits and safe spaces for women and girls, CARE said.

Dr. Tram Jones and Hannah Grady Jones, a married couple who are both University of Georgia graduates from Atlanta, have been working in Haiti for more than a year through the nonprofit aid organization Light from Light.

Tram Jones works in a medical clinic supported by the nonprofit, where Hannah is the executive director. They left Haiti recently amid dangerous conditions from political unrest and have been working remotely, but plan to return to their posts near Port-au-Prince in the next few weeks to continue their work.

They’ve been getting steady reports on conditions and needs, and Tram Jones said already limited medical supplies may complicate a recovery effort that will probably require doctors to be flown into the hardest-hit areas to avoid regions where gangs make travel difficult.

They said this massive earthquake will bring up PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, from the 2010 quake, where so many in Haiti witnessed deaths and destruction, which only adds to the challenges facing a country with political unrest, COVID-19 and now another devastating earthquake.

“I would say overall the sentiment is a hopeful fatigue,” said Hannah Grady Jones. “They have no choice but to be resilient. So I think they do remain so, they remain hopeful ... and yet at the same time, everyone is really tired.”