Church groups and volunteers from several states -- including North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia -- are grounded in Haiti as riots continue to erupt over skyrocketing gas prices.
American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines have all canceled flights to Haiti, and the U.S. Embassy is urging Americans to stay put and not try to reach the airport unless they know their flight is leaving.
Cornerstone Covenant Church missionary Bekah Soots, from Hudson, told WSOC they missed their initial flight and were concerned about safety after being unable to pass through local roadblocks.
“[Protesters] built barricades out of metal, and they were setting tires on fire in the middle of the road,” Soots said.
The team spent hours at a church before they were finally able to get to the airport. Members of the Cornerstone Covenant Church are expected to arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina, Monday night.
They said, Saturday night was the worst.
HAITI| “When we heard gun shots we dropped immediately to the ground. Everyone was screaming and crying. People started passing guns to civilians. We thought the 10 men were about to break in and rob us, kill us, and start a fire.”@wsoctv pic.twitter.com/Bv1AwUI1Cc— Stephanie Tinoco (@STinocoWSOC9) July 9, 2018
“We heard gunshots start and they were very close,” said Peek. “At this point, we all dropped immediately to the ground. We’re all on our hands and knees. Everyone’s screaming, everyone’s crying.”
Peek said guns were handed out to civilians for protection.
“People started passing out guns to civilians because we thought the (men) were about to break in and rob us, kill us, start a fire. We had no idea,” she said.
NEW| A missionary just sent me this video of what it looks like in Haiti. He says at one point his team had to hide in a tiny room because 10 me with guns were trying to break into the compound they are staying in @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/IAX6762TKj— Stephanie Tinoco (@STinocoWSOC9) July 9, 2018
The local missionaries said the Haitian people they are staying with are risking their lives to protect them.
“The people here where we're staying having been nothing short of amazing,” said Peek.
Credit: North Albemarle
Credit: North Albemarle
Church officials at North Albemarle Baptist Church in Stanly County, North Carolina said they are keeping in touch with families still in Haiti.
The church took a team of 10 adults and two minors to Haiti, about 45 minutes from Port-au-Prince.
Brad Lynch, the church’s pastor, said the group is safe and hopeful to return home by the end of the week.
Lynch said his team is staying in an orphanage and the conditions nearby are horrifying.
“There have been rampant protests in the street, and with that, they have set up barricades in the roads with burning tires,” Lynch said. “There are also civilians who have armed themselves and are standing guard at those barricades charging money for people to pass by, so there's a real concern about safety.”
Pastor describes conditions in Haiti. He told me: “Protestors have set up barricades in the roads with burning tires. Some civilians have armed theselves, standing guard at those barricades charging money for people to pass by. There’s a real concern about safety." @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/XcWtm1n8Mf— Stephanie Tinoco (@STinocoWSOC9) July 8, 2018
He said his team is running low on food, clean water and fuel for their generator. The church is working with locals to get supplies to them.
Missionaries also sent WSOC video of boulders and tires engulfed in flames.
“They literally have tires surrounding the perimeter of the airport currently on fire,” Peek said. “I really love Haiti, but I'm scared for my life.”