Two surgeons, one of whom is an orthopedic surgeon treating earthquake victims from the Southern region of Haiti, have been reportedly kidnapped in Port-au-Prince – highlighting the fragility of a gang truce meant to allow humanitarian aid to traverse a corridor to the nation’s hardest-hit areas.
The Miami Herald reports that in response to the kidnappings in Haiti’s capital, one hospital network declared a two-day shutdown to all patients, except for emergencies.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Dr. Ronald Laroche, the founder of DASH, a network of eight private hospitals and clinics that operate in the capital, according to the Herald. “Kidnapping is one thing. But the fact that the mother and child died is unacceptable.”
It’s unclear how much ransom has been demanded or who is responsible for the abductions. Kidnappers have contacted the families of both doctors though.
Meanwhile, Haitian police on Thursday (August 19) also announced that 22 prisoners had escaped from the Les Cayes jail after the earthquake.
Marie-Michelle Verrier, Haiti’s National Police spokesman, said anyone seeking to take aid to the south to quake victims should check in with police. The announcement comes after Haitian artist Widler Octavius, known as Wid, complained to the Herald on Wednesday that the police commissioner assigned to Les Cayes had refused to provide him with a police escort to the hospital in nearby Port Salut.
It’s there where Wid had been donating cooked meals and toiletries to quake victims. The police’s refusal left him at the mercy of bandits, he said, who attacked his group as they headed to the beachfront community.
“The police has taken all the necessary steps to reinforce its presence along the Martissant route,” Verrier said during a press conference. “There are still threats along this road. … Everyone who has donations to take to the Great South, we will remind you again that the police are here to accompany you. The police had taken all steps to ensure the security of the convoys in the areas that are at risk up until they arrive at their destination.”
As of Sunday (August 15), the death toll from the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Saturday has escalated to 1,297 people. Search and rescue is still underway as first responders look through crumbled buildings and structures during aftershocks and amidst the news that Tropical Depression Grace could potentially hit Haiti. Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection indicated that more than 7,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 5,000 damaged including hospitals, schools, offices and churches.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicts that Grace could bring heavy rain, flooding and landslides as soon as Monday evening, which will only further hamper rescue and recovery efforts.
According to the Associated Press, 5,700 people have been injured while many survivors are still awaiting medical help from overwrought hospitals. Most of those dead and injured are from the southwestern part of the island, some of the island’s poorest sections which have been impacted by the recent presidential assassination, gang violence, and the rise of COVID-19 where vaccinations are not yet readily available.