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South Hall residents anguish over quake that devastated home country
Dieufaite Augustin and wife Marie have been unable to contact any of their family in Haiti since the Jan. 12 earthquake. Augustin moved from Haiti to the United States almost 25 years ago. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

OAKWOOD — Helplessness and horror. Dieufaite and Marie Augustin of South Hall have experienced both emotions since a Jan. 12 earthquake devastated their homeland.

"Some things are very, very unbearable," Dieufaite said. "Words cannot describe it."

From their home off Warren Road, the couple have watched the heart-wrenching TV reports of death and destruction produced by the magnitude-7.0 earthquake.

Seeing the island nation turned into rubble was bad enough. The Augustins have anguished mainly over not knowing the fate of loved ones, particularly Marie’s kinfolk in Cayes, about 100 miles south of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The death toll is estimated at 200,000, according to Haitian government figures relayed by the European Commission, with 80,000 buried in mass graves.

The commission now estimates 2 million homeless, up from 1.5 million, and says 250,000 are in need of urgent aid.

"We have people all over who have prayed for us," Dieufaite Augustin said. "We hope, even though we can’t make contact with our loved ones, that they are safe."

He has learned that his hometown, Gonaives, "was shaken but there was no damage."

The Augustins are getting support from their church, Blackshear Place Baptist in Oakwood.

"We are definitely reaching out to them as an entire pastoral staff team and church fellowship," said Jason Nave, who serves in the pastoral/missions ministry at the church.

"We want them to know that we are praying for them and are deeply concerned for their loss. All of our pastors are reaching out to them on a regular basis."

Nave said he has told the couple "not to hesitate calling on us for anything that they might need."

"We also have a prayer ministry, ‘Intercede,’ that focused a good amount of time Wednesday night praying specifically for them and their family in Haiti," he said.

The Augustins have lived in the U.S. for about 25 years, after having met and married in Haiti.

"Before the earthquake ... it was bad," Dieufaite said of conditions in Haiti. "Life is very hard. ... We live like the richest person."

A natural disaster only heaps on more woe for Haitians living in extreme poverty.

"Words can’t describe it," he said. "Life has become more miserable. If I find another word besides ‘worse,’ that’s the one I could use."

The Augustins, both Haitian-American citizens, moved four years ago from Orlando, Fla., and have three children, including one at Lipscomb University in Tennessee. Dieufaite works as an equipment operator for Office Depot in Buford.

To cope with events unfolding in Haiti, "we just pray to God. We get comfort from God — we rely on him," Dieufaite said.

Dieufaite’s strong faith carries into the workplace, where three days after the disaster, he was sharing the gospel with co-workers and urging them to get their spiritual affairs in order.

"I believe life is so short," he said.

"We are a like a vapor. We vanish like that," Dieufaite added, snapping a finger.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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