A devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit southern Haiti last evening, destroying buildings and triggering tsunami alerts for Haiti and the surrounding islands in the Caribbean.
The earthquake, which struck 10 miles outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, has so far resulted in 28 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or higher, CNN reported. According to the Haitian government, this is the strongest earthquake to ever strike the country. The quake affected roughly one out of three Haitians, or about 3 million people, according to Red Cross estimates.
Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders in Inter-America expressed concerned for the millions of Haitians who have been affected by the earthquake. "We know that there will be great need in the coming days," said Israel Leito, president for the Adventist Church in Inter-America.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the humanitarian arm of the Adventist church, is currently monitoring the situation and preparing a response, the organization reported.
ADRA International, ADRA Canada and the Adventist Church in Inter-America have gathered so far US$85,000 in relief funds, with a goal of raising US$500,000 in seven days. The funds will go directly toward helping Haitians recover from the January 12 earthquake, an spokesperson ADRA said. ADRA International is also partnering with Adventist-run Florida Hospital to send a medical team to Haiti tomorrow.
"ADRA Haiti is prepared to use cash donations to make a first response immediately ... in terms of food and water to the most needy, utilizing its volunteer base," said Wally Amundson, director for ADRA in Haiti.
Several government officials and non-government organization workers are unaccounted for. Early reports indicate extensive damage to infrastructure in some areas, with the Associated Press reporting that a hospital collapsed during the quake.
Assistant director for ADRA Haiti Ketteline Israel said the destruction is widespread.
"There are buildings collapsed all around, traffic is barely moving and a general sense of panic and loss of life is evident," Israel said.
Most of the Adventist church's large institutions, such as its hospital and university, are based in Carrefour, a city on the southern outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Although Carrefour is not close to Delmas, church leaders are waiting to hear more about potential damage to those institutions as well.
Inter-American church leaders say they are hoping to have more information tomorrow. So far, the church's headquarters in Haiti have suffered no structural damages, according to local church officials.
With 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The country is still recovering from a hurricane that left thousands of Haitians homeless October 2008.
The earthquake also delayed a volunteer project from a church in the United States that partners with a Haitian orphanage. A group of 31 church members from the New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton, Maryland last night canceled their week-long trip to the Eden Garden Orphanage, 60 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince.
"There were so many uncertainties," said Marty Chappell, a member of the volunteer team. "None of us are equipped to do search and rescue."
The group planned to hold a Vacation Bible School for community children, as well as help drill two water wells, one for the orphanage and one for the community.
"We knew we wouldn't have been able to drill [the wells] because of the aftershocks," Chappell said.
The orphanage sustained no damage, and the 50 children and the director and his wife are safe, he said.
In Haiti about 500.000 Seventh-day Adventist Christians are worshiping in 470 churches. In addition to a hospital and university, the church operates dozens of schools there.