Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple not damaged, missionaries safe following 7.2 earthquake

All full-time missionaries are safe and accounted for in Haiti on Saturday, Aug. 14, following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on the west end of the Caribbean nation.

Some of the missionaries’ homes were damaged, “so they had to be relocated,” reported Rafael Gutiérrez, the Church’s Caribbean Area communication director.

Meanwhile, assessments are underway to determine the welfare status of Latter-day Saints in Haiti.

The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple was not damaged, according to information received in the days after the earthquake. A rented building utilized by a unit in the city of Les Cayes suffered significant damage.

“Local [Church] leaders are tirelessly working on doing an assessment of the situation among our members, missionaries and buildings, as well as helping as much as they can in the community,” wrote Gutiérrez in an email to the Church News. “Their limited strengths and resources are mostly focused on this primary effort.”

There were reports of damage to homes of Latter-day Saints in Haiti.

Petit Pas Hotel is damaged after an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.
Petit Pas Hotel is damaged after an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Credit: Delot Jean, Associated Press

“We are working with the [local] leaders to help the members that are affected by the earthquake,” reported Elder Eduardo Gavarret, a General Authority Seventy who was recently called to preside over the Caribbean Area.

As of Thursday, Aug. 19, At least 1,900 people were killed and hundreds more were injured or reported missing, according to news reports from the embattled Caribbean nation. Haiti has endured frequent civil unrest and, in 2010, a devastating earthquake that claimed an estimated 250,000 lives.

The epicenter of the quake was about 78 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and widespread damage was reported, according to the Associated Press.

Haiti’s civil protection agency said following the quake that search teams would be sent to the heavily affected area. Rescue workers and bystanders were able to pull many people to safety from the rubble. 

Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a one-month state of emergency for the whole country and said he would not ask for international help until the extent of the damages was known. He said some towns were almost completely razed and the government had people in the coastal town of Les Cayes to help plan and coordinate the response, according to the Associated Press.

“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” said Henry. “We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.”

The Cayimite Hotel is damaged after an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.
The Cayimite Hotel is damaged after an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Credit: Delot Jean, Associated Press

Henry added that the International Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas were helping to care for the injured, and appealed to Haitians for unity.

“The needs are enormous. We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter and psychological support,” he said.

People in Port-au-Prince felt the tremor and many rushed into the streets in fear, although there did not appear to be damage there.

Naomi Verneus, a 34-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince, told the Associated Press that she was jolted awake by the earthquake and that her bed was shaking.

“I woke up and didn’t have time to put my shoes on. We lived through the 2010 earthquake and all I could do was run. I later remembered my two kids and my mother were still inside. My neighbor went in and told them to get out. We ran to the street,” Verneus said.

Saturday’s quake only adds to the difficulties Haitian Latter-day Saints and their neighbors continue to endure.

Ongoing political unrest in Haiti has snagged global headlines and compounded the daily challenges facing Latter-day Saints in the Caribbean nation — including poverty, crime and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Haiti President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on July 7, 2021, adding to the volatility in the country.

Just last month, the Church News reported on the “pillars of faith” that are sustaining many of the 24,000 Haitian Latter-day Saints during the ongoing troubles. Counted among the pillars are temple and family history work.

For many Latter-day Saints in Haiti, the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple is a symbol of God’s love for His children in the Caribbean nation and a reminder of the eternities amid the daily challenges of mortality.