'Very sad situation': Haitian engineer describes aftermath of deadly earthquake

The day a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck his hometown of Les Cayes, Jude Elie started making his way back from Haiti's capital city.

Elie was forced to take the back roads from Port-au-Prince, and by the time he arrived in southern Haiti on Sunday morning, he said he was among the first to see the damage.

"There's a lot of damage; churches, schools, the roads are breaking and there's so many houses destroyed by the earthquake," said Elie via Zoom on Monday after he made it back to Port-au-Prince. "It's a very sad situation."

Elie said he saw people sleeping outside of homes and hospitals.

"The system was not really ready to assist the people," he said. "And I can tell you that this is a very bad situation and we need to act fast to see how we can help the people in the south."

READ MORE: Earthquake victims wait for help as new disaster overwhelms Haiti

Saturday's quake struck about 80 miles southwest of the nation's capital, which took the brunt of a 7.0 earthquake in 2010, which killed more than 200,000 people.

Elie's family and friends are all safe and accounted for and are now helping others, he said.

"The people of the city, they did it by themselves," said Elie. "They moved people from the dirty place -- from where the church collapsed -- did it by themselves."

Humanitarian groups and the U.S. Coast Guard are on the ground assisting in recovery and search and rescue efforts.

Mirlesna Azor-Sterlin with Haitians of the Triangle has been working to connect with people in Haiti and as well as Haitians across the United States.

"Haitians are resilient, yes, we know that," she said. "But also, this is traumatic so any help, any assistance, words of wisdom, comfort all those are welcome as well."

Azor-Sterlin urged anyone interested in donating to the recovery efforts in Haiti to ensure your donation goes to a reputable organization.

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That recovery, she said, is going to be complicated as Haiti is still reeling from the assassination of its president in July; a tropical storm is headed for the island nation, and all of the rebuilding will take place during a pandemic.

"It's definitely going to be the longer-term impact on Haiti, whether that's economically speaking, mental health is a huge concern whether that's for folks here in the diaspora but also in Haiti for sure," said Azor-Sterlin. "Those resources were already lacking, but we're getting hit with this new tragedy and that's going to amplify the need."
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