A street vendor walks past burning tires set up by anti-government protesters during a general strike in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, July 9, 2018. A nationwide, general strike and protest was called to demand the resignation of Haiti's President after his government agreed to reduce subsidies for fuel. The fuel hike was suspended after widespread, violent protests broke out on Friday and over the weekend.
Photo: Dieu Nalio Chery/AP
Photo: Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Missionaries stuck in Haiti riots: ‘I 100 percent thought I was going to die’

Savannah Peek, a missionary with a team from Richmond County, North Carolina, told WSOC said they are terrified for their lives. 

“We hear a loud knocking. We look over and there's 10 men trying to break in,” said Peek. “I, 100 percent thought I was going to die, and so was my sister and my fiance.”

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American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines have all canceled flights to Haiti, and the U.S. Embassy is urging Americans to stay put and not try to reach the airport unless they know their flight is leaving.

Cornerstone Covenant Church missionary Bekah Soots, from Hudson, told WSOC they missed their initial flight and were concerned about safety after being unable to pass through local roadblocks. 

“[Protesters] built barricades out of metal, and they were setting tires on fire in the middle of the road,” Soots said.

The team spent hours at a church before they were finally able to get to the airport. Members of the Cornerstone Covenant Church are expected to arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina, Monday night.

They said, Saturday night was the worst.

“We heard gunshots start and they were very close,” said Peek. “At this point, we all dropped immediately to the ground. We’re all on our hands and knees. Everyone’s screaming, everyone’s crying.”

Peek said guns were handed out to civilians for protection.

“People started passing out guns to civilians because we thought the (men) were about to break in and rob us, kill us, start a fire. We had no idea,” she said.

The local missionaries said the Haitian people they are staying with are risking their lives to protect them.

“The people here where we're staying having been nothing short of amazing,” said Peek.

Volunteers from North Albemarle Baptist Church in Haiti.
Photo: North Albemarle Baptist Church

Church officials at North Albemarle Baptist Church in Stanly County, North Carolina said they are keeping in touch with families still in Haiti.

The church took a team of 10 adults and two minors to Haiti, about 45 minutes from Port-au-Prince.

10 adults and two minors with North Albemarle Baptist Church in North Carolina are currently in Haiti as local protests have erupted into violence over rising gas prices. 
Photo: North Albemarle Baptist Church

Brad Lynch, the church’s pastor, said the group is safe and hopeful to return home by the end of the week.

Lynch said his team is staying in an orphanage and the conditions nearby are horrifying.

“There have been rampant protests in the street, and with that, they have set up barricades in the roads with burning tires,” Lynch said. “There are also civilians who have armed themselves and are standing guard at those barricades charging money for people to pass by, so there's a real concern about safety.”

He said his team is running low on food, clean water and fuel for their generator. The church is working with locals to get supplies to them.

Missionaries also sent WSOC video of boulders and tires engulfed in flames. 

“They literally have tires surrounding the perimeter of the airport currently on fire,” Peek said. “I really love Haiti, but I'm scared for my life.”

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