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Gangs in Haiti offer to help aid efforts; earthquake death toll rises to 2,207

The new toll comes at a time when relief operations are expanding — the U.S.-based aid agency Samaritan's Purse opened a field hospital Saturday — but authorities are struggling with security at distribution points.

Gangs have hijacked aid trucks and desperate crowds have scuffled over bags of food

Haiti’s earthquake response hampered by economic crisis

3 months ago
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The response to last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti has been hampered by the ongoing economic and political crisis there, and experts say the future of the country remains uncertain. 3:55

A Haitian gang leader on Sunday offered a truce and help for communities shattered by a devastating earthquake — potentially offering a break for a relief effort that has been plagued by hijacked aid trucks and disorder.

The offer came as many Haitians resumed services in or outside damaged churches, sometimes for the first time since the magnitude 7.2 quake of Aug. 14. The country's Civil Protection Agency also raised toll of dead to 2,207.

It wasn't immediately clear how much impact the truce offer might have: While powerful, Jimmy Cherizier, alias "Barbecue," is far from the only gang leader in Haiti and widely repeated social media reports of an earlier gang truce failed to prevent attacks on the expanding relief effort.

Gangs have blocked roads, hijacked aid trucks and stolen supplies, forcing relief workers to transport supplies by helicopter. In places, desperate crowds have scuffled over bags of food.

Cherizier addressed a Facebook video on Sunday to the hardest-hit parts of the Haiti's southwestern peninsula, saying "We want to tell them that the G9 Revolutionary Forces and allies, all for one and one for all, sympathize with their pain and sorrows."

Relatives mourn during the funeral of an earthquake victim in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Sunday. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

"The G9 Revolutionary Forces and allies ... will participate in the relief by bringing them help. We invite all compatriots to show solidarity with the victims by trying to share what little there is with them."

The increase in the death toll was the first since late Wednesday when the government put it at 2,189. The government said Sunday that 344 people were still missing, 12,268 people were injured and nearly 53,000 houses were destroyed by the quake.

In Les Cayes, many attended church to mourn those lost and give thanks for their own survival.

At an evangelical church in the Bergeaud neighborhood, parishioners sang hymns under beams of sunlight streaming through holes in the roof and walls.

Pastor Sevrain Marc Dix Jonas, said Sunday's service was special because until now his congregation had been unable to meet since the quake.

People unload humanitarian aid from a U.S. Army helicopter at an airport in Les Cayes on Sunday. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

"Today was a must," Dix Jonas said, standing below a gaping opening high in his church's facade. "To thank God. He protected us. We did not die."

His church was one of the few where congregants could worship inside. At many others, services were held in the street outside collapsed sanctuaries.

Taking that into account, the Roman Catholic church in Les Cayes moved its morning service to 6:30 a.m. to avoid the heat of day.

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