WARNING: Message contains graphic and disturbing details.

UPDATE December 23rd, 2021:

Please continue to keep our partners at the Centre for Nutrition & Education for Women & Children (C-NEW-C) in your thoughts and prayers. Led by Director Andre Jean-Pierre, they are shouldering a heavy load, but doing so with strength and compassion. Plans for a celebratory Christmas party have been changed to a more sombre tone as they together remember the victims and care for those dealing with loss. Among the lives lost are 20-year Patrick, who just recently graduated high school through the Tuition Support Program and was dreaming of post-secondary education and a career as “an important manager.” His bright future was cut much too short. Another family with small children lost their home in the fire. 

Emergency assistance will be ongoing for many months. We still do not know the full extent of the needs, as victims continue to arrive at the Centre seeking help. Longer-term support will be needed to get these families back on their feet. 

Andre has confirmed the assistance of a Haitian psychologist who will be providing some trauma counselling. for victims as well as the C-NEW-C staff who are struggling through their own pain to care for those in need.

The strength of leadership and depth of commitment from Andre and his team are incredible during this crisis.

They’ve rushed to meet urgent needs, are making tremendous sacrifices to ensure all victims are heard and supported (including modifying the holiday schedule to NOT close the Centre down over the holidays, with staff taking turns at overtime, etc.), and are investigating and prioritizing needs.

C-NEW-C is also working in concert with other local organizations and the Justinian Hospital, to support one another and share resources. We will be supporting Andre’s strong recommendations to get funds and support where they are most needed. 

UPDATE December 15th, 2021:

Well, folks. This is not the sort of message we want to share, especially during the holiday season, but it must be shared all the same. We have received more information about the tanker explosion in Cap Haitian from Andre, Field Director at the C-NEW-C. ☹

The explosion occurred between midnight and 1am on Tuesday. The official death count is at 70, but we have learned it is actually much higher and expected to rise. Andre and his team at the C-NEW-C have been receiving victims—family members of missing persons who don’t know what to do, family members of burn victims in need of medical care, families who have lost their homes and loved ones.

Andre has shared more information about how the explosion unfolded, and the suffering caused is horrific. We share these details here, in an effort to communicate the gravity of the situation and the actions CNEWC/Rayjon will be taking to assist.

The gas tanker overturned as it tried to avoid an oncoming motorcycle and lay on its side for about an hour, leaking fuel all the while in into the streets and leeching down into the canals nearby. There was very little emergency response initially, and nothing to prevent the gas from continuing to spread. That particular area is built around a major turnabout and bridge connecting several of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in Cap Haitien. Very few homes there, which are built all along the canals and also underneath the bridge, would have been constructed of cement and able to withstand any heat. The homes are tightly packed together, with only narrow alleys/hallways as shared exits. When the gas trickled down into the water and streets it reached into these densely packed homes without electricity, where it eventually found a lit candle. Countless people were trapped inside as the fires quickly consumed them. The fire travelled quickly, jumping across the street and finally back to the tanker which then exploded. The explosion engulfed at least 15 people on motorcycles and in the streets who had gathered desperately trying to scoop up whatever fuel they could.

The Justinien Hospital in Cap Haitien has been overwhelmed and many patients are being transferred to larger facilities in other cities. There are not enough bandages, pain medications or other supplies. Andre describes driving down the streets where the bodies of many, including children, still lay covered in white sheets as bulldozers and rescue workers continue to dig through the damage searching for those trapped below.

As they receive victims, Andre & his team at the CNEWC will be working on prioritizing the needs and planning out how to best help. This is all happening at the same time that the CNEWC was very busy preparing for their annual Christmas celebration and major food distribution to see families through the holidays while the Centre is typically closed. They are now modifying plans to focus on the most urgent needs and to ensure that the Centre stays open to receive those seeking help.

Thank you to the many supporters who have already donated to support emergency assistance. Rayjon will continue to support Andre and the team at the CNEWC as they care for those affected and plan out interventions in the coming days and weeks. They have asked for our continued prayers.