Rapper Josué Souffrant, better known as Eclair 107, was about to go into a studio on Delmas 42 in Port-au-Prince when he felt the ground suddenly shake. Stunned, Souffrant rushed into the middle of the street alongside other residents.
The homes around where Souffrant stood were intact, but people began saying moments later that the southern region was devastated. He immediately called his sisters in Les Cayes, a commune in the southern department, where he is from. They didn’t answer.
While waiting for them to call back, Souffrant began receiving pictures of the damage through a WhatsApp group. The first photo he saw was of a woman’s lifeless body being carried away. Later, he saw a video of the woman being pulled out of the rubble.
But as Souffrant, 26, looked at that first photo, he immediately recognized the body as that of his mother, Josette Oméus.
“She left me today, it’s painful, my tears will never dry,” Souffrant told The Haitian Times later Saturday, weeping. “I still stare at the picture to check if it’s true. I’m hoping to get a phone call for someone to tell me ‘Josué, no that’s not what you saw in the picture.’”
But when family members finally called Souffrant back, they confirmed his mother had died. His uncle, Ossel Oméus, and brother-in-law, René Marcelin, also died. The two men had not been pulled from the two-story house’s rubble as of Saturday evening and surviving members of the family who shared the home had planned to sleep at a park.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed Souffrant’s family occurred at about 8:30 a.m., shaking a series of towns stretched along the southwestern portion of Haiti, including the major cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie. Shakes were felt as far west of the epicenter as Port-au-Prince about 125 kilometers, or 77 miles, away.
As of early Sunday, Haiti’s Civil Protection agency had counted 724 deaths and 28,000 injured people so far. Thousands of homes, institutions and businesses had collapsed, trapping an untold amount of people underneath rubble and leaving many others homeless.
“If the house was built to fight against this disaster I wouldn’t have lost my mother,” Souffrant said. “That hurts me a lot. It also taught us a lesson. If God gives us the opportunity we have to take charge.”
Souffrant said he wants to travel to Les Cayes but hasn’t been able to because gang members blocked the road in Port-au-Prince that leads to the South. The road has been blocked since June. Souffrant blamed the government for not doing enough to end the ongoing violence.
“We have a country that’s not being governed,” Souffrant said.
Souffrant started his rap career in 2014. He released a song to implore the government to assist the residents in March 2021, “Leta” (The government).
In April 2016, Souffrant also released a song to encourage fellow rapper Jean-Léonard “Izolan” Tout-Puissant whose mother had died, titled “Kouraj Izolan Barikad Crew” (Courage Izolan Barikad Crew).
Souffrant last saw his mother in July when she visited him in Port-au-Prince. The two used to communicate every day on WhatsApp. Souffrant hadn’t talked with his mother on Saturday yet.
“The last words I wish I could say to her is that I love her a lot,” Souffrant said.