As the death toll from the Jan. 12 Haitian earthquake soars from tens of thousands to possibly several hundred thousand, little glimmers of light and hope still have shone through in Port-au-Prince.
Two such stories were told Tuesday morning, Jan. 19, at the Centrale Ward meetinghouse as the Church’s emergency-response team of volunteer doctors and nurses arrived to start assessing medical needs and treating the injured and ailing.
Among the first seen by the volunteers in one of the meetinghouse’s classrooms were Fabiola Beauvil and her 4-day-old baby, Klaira Eliska, both survivors of the 7.0-magnitude quake that left much of Haiti’s capital city and surrounding areas in shambles, hundreds of thousands homeless and many more suffering from hunger, thirst and injuries.
Speaking through an interpreter in her native Creole tongue, Ms. Beauvil said she was inside her home when the evening tremors began and rushed outside without grabbing any belongings. She emerged unscathed, despite the roof collapsing around her while she ran out.
Others in the house were not as lucky. A number of other friends and family members weren’t able to escape, and their bodies remain entombed inside the home.
Outside and continuing to feel the tremors and aftershocks, Ms. Beauvil also felt labor coming on, with her water breaking. Three days later, her little girl, Klaira, was born.
Ms. Beauvil was inside the LDS Church’s Centrale meetinghouse when the medical team arrived, sitting in the hallway and gently holding her newborn. She later was placed in a classroom, with Klaira wide awake and resting on a mattress, as doctors and nurses came to give both mother and daughter check-ups to confirm all was well.
Ms. Beauvil is not a member of the LDS faith, and the 4,000 people congregating each day and into the night at the seven Port-au-Prince area meetinghouses are composed of both Latter-day Saints and nonmembers alike.
While the LDS medical team is composed entirely of Mormon doctors, nurses and emotional-health specialists, they are treating and seeing anyone, regardless of church affiliation.
Soon after arrival, the volunteer staff started to look at the most seriously injured — one LDS woman was likely to lose a hand after debris from her home fell on her arm. Benjamin Louise Danixlla said she was putting herself in God’s hands, even if it meant losing one of her own.
A 9-year-old LDS boy also received prompt attention for his right leg, which was injured in the quake.
Not only are the actual injuries of great concern, but the possibility of infection is also a worry.
Church members were recruited to help the doctors control the long line of people seeking medical assistance and to help with translation, if necessary. However, more than a half-dozen of the medical staff were able to communicate with patients in Creole, French or Spanish, as needed.
After a two-day journey to arrive from Salt Lake City and several other points, the volunteer medical staff — having traveled through Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Miami, to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and over the ground to Haiti during Tuesday’s early morning hours — was anxious to get started as soon as they arrived.
“It’s a relief to have arrived, when it wasn’t sure if we’d make it,” said Marc Johnson, a family-practice doctor from Ogden, Utah. “I figured we’d make it here, but I wasn’t sure how many days it would end up taking.”
Another local house in which a family was dealing with the earthquake and a pregnancy was the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission home, where President Kerving Joseph and his wife, Sister Daphnee Joseph, were when the quake hit.
They weren’t injured, and the mission home wasn’t damaged. But Sister Joseph, who is expected to deliver the couple’s third child on Jan. 25, was evacuated first to Santo Domingo and later to Miami.
All of President Joseph’s full-time missionaries were safe and accounted for in the first days after the quake; however, most of their apartments were either seriously damaged or destroyed.
President Joseph reported he has assigned eight missionaries to remain working in Port-au-Prince area, with the rest of the missionaries previously serving in the nation’s capital reassigned to outlying areas.
The eight in Port-au-Prince continue to serve — they have been helping distribute food and relief supplies that already have been sent in by the Church. And they continue to contact people and if the investigators don’t have an inhabitable home, the missionaries bring them to the Centrale Ward meetinghouse.