Devastation of Haiti Quake Hits Close to Home for Many in South Florida

South Florida is home to the largest Haitian population in the U.S.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Vanessa Joseph says the images of the devastation in Haiti by the earthquake have been hard to watch.

“A lot of people are still under the rubble of their homes,” Joseph said. “A lot of people are displaced.”

Joseph lives in South Florida but has family in Haiti. The home that’s been in her family for her generations crumbled to the ground.

Her aunt and uncle escaped moments before the collapse.

South Florida is home to the largest Haitian population in the U.S., and families are trying to reach loved ones back home following the earthquake. NBC 6's Kim Wynne reports

“They had woken up early to go for a walk and as they got outside and started to prepare to go on that walk, the house crumbled,” she said.

“They are safe,” Joseph said. “They are safe by the grace of God.”

She says she’s still on edge with other family members still unaccounted for.

“We’re just hoping for the best and hoping that the lack of news is not necessarily bad news in those cases,” she said.

The death toll continues to rise with hundreds dead after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated the country Saturday. 

Regine Bastien says the earthquake brings back painful memories of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, which she survived. 

“2010 left people under the tent for a lot of time,” Bastien said. “Hungry people, homeless people, anxious people, traumatized people. This is too much.”

The country is still reeling after the assassination of its president last month, Jovenel Moise. 

“It’s been one turmoil after the other,” said Sandy Dorsainvil, manager of the Little Haiti Cultural Center, a cornerstone in the community. 

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck near Haiti on Saturday morning causing widespread damage and killing at least 1,297 people. Rescue footage showed a woman and child being pulled from rubble as rescuers quickly search to save trapped victims. The U.S. Coast Guard has sent assistance for relief efforts.

She says many of their vendors got bad news as they were setting up for an event.

“Some of the vendors had family members there,” Dorsainvil said. “As they were setting up, they were getting WhatsApp messages and voice notes from family members saying, yes, there was some damage to the homes, yes, someone was hurt or someone’s missing.”

Dorsainvil, like many others, is now focused on relief efforts. 

“Figure out how we’re going to coordinate a relief effort in the midst of Covid, in the midst of political unrest,” she said.

Contact Us