One man we’ve been helping this past week had a harrowing story of the blast. He was in his home when the blast hit. The large antique wood doors in his room blew off the hinges, struck him head on, and propelled him through the air towards his back veranda.
His veranda overlooks the street below with about a 20 foot drop. In that second, he realized he was about to fly out the window and into the street unless he could grab on to something. Suddenly, the reverse pressure change from the passing shockwave hit, slamming shut the doors on the veranda entrance right in his face, knocking him to the ground but sparing him the fall to the street below.
Since that day until yesterday, his home has had no doors. For over two weeks, he has slept on a mattress laid across the entrance of what used to be his front door with a shotgun at his side. However, he says he has not actually slept much. He says at night he is too hyper-vigilant due to the presence of roaming gangs of thieves that slip past security checkpoints at 3am and try to rob unsecured houses. So far his hunting dog has managed to scare away any would-be robbers, and kept him and his family safe.
The other day we were able to get plywood fitted out to cover one of the entrances to his home that was totally ruined in the blast. It was the same entrance where the large double doors had almost flung him to the street below. We also found a couple sets of similar-sized doors at a wood shop in the city for him to hang back on his front door. A friend of his family insisted they be the ones to pay for the doors, and the doors finally got installed yesterday. One family at ground zero can at least sleep a little better now at night, and we thank the Lord for it.
This is typical for many still living in the affected blast areas. Sleepless nights, doorless homes and no sense of safety. I don’t know how many others are still sleeping on a mattress by their front doors, but we heard similar stories in the immediate days after the blast. Pray that we can find more with similar needs like this if they do exist so we can help them immediately.
Still Clearing Rubble And Covering Windows
Another week in and there is still a lot of rubble left to clear. We have now almost totally cleared all the levels on one eight story building and several other homes in the nearby areas. It’s long, slow, hot work to do without elevators, but the volunteers have kept up a good attitude despite the heat and fatigue. We have found that by this point most homes where people are still living in them have been cleared of debris. Those were many of the homes done the first few days/week after the blast. In those earliest days, all you had to do was walk around with a shovel and broom, and someone would holler at you in the street to come up to their apartment to help clear debris.
What now remains are homes where it is so damaged people can’t live there anymore and have left for shelters or relatives homes in the mountains. These buildings are like ghost towns. Gaping holes where windows once were, sometimes with the drapes flapping in the wind over the shards of broken glass. They look like the blast just happened. For these homes, we have begun helping at request of the resident usually via a neighbor or relative we also helped. Finding the people who live in the ghost homes is hard. Many of them haven’t been back more than once or twice since the blast. They are still in shock. The thought of how to even begin putting their home back is so overwhelming, they don’t know where to begin.
After cleaning the initial debris we are also covering up windows with plastic sheeting to protect the homes. This is a challenge in a country where everything is built with concrete and not wood. Securing plastic sheets with packing tape on concrete walls is less than ideal. The strong coastal winds often make a mockery of our efforts. We’ve begun sinking anchors into the concrete and screwing in wood strips over the plastic, which along with a tape seal around the borders has given them enough strength to withstand the winds.
Still Keeping The Aid Tent Going
The volunteers staffing the aid tent nearby the partner church have been hard at work this past week too. So far they’ve made and given out over 1,700 cucumber, cheese and meat sandwiches to residents, city workers, volunteers, police officers and others on the street. We’ve also given out over 5,800 bottles of water to people. This may seem like a small service to provide, but in an area where every store has been demolished, you can’t find food or water readily available. It’s a vital part of helping the other volunteers and residents keep going in the clean up down there. It’s also provided good opportunities to talk with others about the reason we’re down helping in the area, and several have taken Bibles that are made available by the church. Please pray for these people, and for the many volunteers still working away silently in the blast areas!
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