Report from Jacmel

At 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12th, I was attending a class at the Jacmel branch of the UNASMOH (Université Américaine des Sciences Modernes d’Haiti) when the Earthquake hit. I was in Indonesia after the Tsunami in 2005; I learned there that during an earthquake, the safest position is under the door frames in a building. But, once we felt the shaking here, everyone in my classroom—including the teacher—stood up and started running to get out of the building. We were on the 2nd floor and scrambled to the stairs. I tried to stop my colleagues and tell them what to do, but they were gone. While yelling, I felt a brick hitting me on my head and I fell down. Then I felt other bricks falling on my back, my arms. I thought that this would be my last minute living. Fortunately, everything stopped.

I stood up and went out. I couldn’t see because of all the dust from the falling bricks. I soon realized that the rest of the university was almost completely collapsed, but my classroom didn’t fall. All the students and the teacher had to go to hospital afterward because they were severely injured. I spoke to one of my classmates the next day around 10 a.m. He said that he did not know what happened. He didn’t even remember that he was in class.

I left the campus with other students by using the tops of other nearby houses that are lower than the school building. Then, I realized that it was not only our campus that had collapsed but almost all buildings in the city. I tried to reach home to see if my orphanage and my family felt the earthquake, but my phone didn’t work. I couldn’t find a taxi or a tap tap (public bus) to go home. Everyone was touching one another and trying to reach another close person to see if he or she was alive or safe.

Fortunately, when I arrived home (at the local residence of Orphans International Haiti) in Cyvadier, just outside Jacmel, I found no damage at all. All the kids were safe and the house was intact. My father’s house nearby had collapsed, but no one was affected physically. The children at the Orphans International House were very scared. They didn’t want to step in the house again. For them, it was like the house was moving during the earthquake. They didn’t want the house to collapse while they were inside.

Many other houses collapsed in Cyvadier. But it is the town of Jacmel that is really affected. The city must be rebuilt.

Contributor

Jacques Africot

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