Earthquake toll extends here

Published 7:31 pm Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The devastation from the earthquake that struck Haiti’s capital a week ago has extended here to Bainbridge.

Eight members of the families of Claude and Eunide LaFortune were killed from the earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince.

The couple, who have operated the Bible Thift Store on Scott Street since April 2006, are still awaiting word of possibly more bad news as a school and orphanage he assists with has not been heard from.

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But the toll has still hit hard for the LaFortunes.

Claude LaFortune’s two brothers, a sister and two nieces were killed when the buildings they were in collapsed on them. His wife’s family lost three members—Eunide’s sister and two nieces.

Claude’s brothers were 45 and 35 years old, and his sister was about 42 years old. His two nieces were 18 and 19 years old. Eunide’s sister was 57, and her nieces were 22 and 28 years old.

Claude LaFortune said he had no communication with friends or family on the first three days following the disaster. They found about their losses earlier on Monday and Tuesday.

Mr. LaFortune, the pastor of the local First Haitian Baptist Church that meets at 614 Church St., said he is aware of approximately 20 Haitians who are permanent members of the community here, but all of their family members that live in Haiti live in the countryside away from the devastation.

As far as he knows, him and his wife were the only ones here who’ve been personally touched by the earthquake.

“I want to go to check on all my family,” Mr. LaFortune said. “We have a school we don’t know anything about.”

He said the school, which is about 50 to 60 miles west of the Haitian capital, has approximately 40 kids in it.

Decatur County also is host to Haitian migrant laborers, but the growing season that they usually arrive to work isn’t until later in the year.

Last January, Mr. LaFortune was in Haiti visiting with friends and family and checked on the school.

Mrs. LaFortune visited Port-au-Prince from Nov. 18-30. She said some felt back then that some Haitian people had visions of catastrophe.

“We dreamed about the mountain going down,” said Eunide, who had earlier wiped tears from her eyes. Her emotion was brought about after saying that the bodies of some Haitian victims were being left in the streets with no dignity of identification or burial.

Mr. LaFortune said this earthquake may be too much for the impoverished country.

“God wants Haiti to turn back to God,” Mr. LaFortune said.

In the meantime, LaFortune said he hopes to collect food, water and other supplies so he can somehow get those supplies to Haiti.