Yesterday, the College La Promesse Evangelique, a school in Petionville collapsed around 10am. On an average school day approximately 700 children attend school at La Promesse, but yesterday was a special occasion at the school and as many as 1500 people may have been inside the building.
Many people have asked me how St. Damien responds to an emergency of this magnitude. Immediately after hearing about the school collapse, Fr. Rick and two teams of emergency responders from St. Damien rushed to the scene and were welcomed into chaos. Every able body was helping to dig the children out of the debris from the collapsed floors. Children were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment and our teams treated those in need. Just as our teams were ready to head back to St. Damien we received a phone call that a near fatal car accident happened directly up the road from where we were. Our team rushed to the site and immediately received two injured patients who needed transport to a hospital. All the hospitals where either full from the earlier school collapse, or on strike, so our “ambulance” took these patients to a private hospital in Port Au Prince.
This morning we learned that emergency teams at the school were calling for body bags for the children who still have not been found inside the debris at the school. Trained dogs had been brought in and also the emergency teams started using a heat technology to detect if any of the bodies inside are still alive. Our teams showed up ready to help and we were happy to find out that 17 children had been found alive inside one of the areas where the children were not thought to survive.
Next was a trip to the local hospital to see if their facility has been able to respond to the children received last night, or if we needed to offer to transport some of the children to St. Damien. We left with two children. At this point our vehicles split up because we also received a phone call that one of the children we brought to a private doctor had perished during the night and we had to go pick up the body to take it to the morgue. Visiting the morgue is quite an altering experience on its own, but today was especially sobering because one of the rooms was designated for the 60 bodies of children that had already been transported from the school. We also learned that the number is still growing because another classroom with no survivors, 20 children and 1 teacher, had been discovered.
We are trying to lend our help wherever possible during this time. This tragic event has affected not only the children and staff of the school and their families, but also the surrounding communities, emergency staff, our staff and many volunteers – and we ask for your continued prayers.