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Bradenton church group stranded in Haiti following violent protests, safely back in Florida

Church group finally home from Haiti
Posted at 10:34 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-09 23:38:29-04

BRADENTON, Fla. — After more than two days of waiting and worrying, members of Woodland Community Church made it back home late Monday night.

In order to get everyone back to Florida on Monday, seven missionaries flew into Orlando, and 21 others took a flight to Tampa.  

Just after 10 p.m. teens on the mission trip to Haiti arrived back at their church to some very grateful family members.

Since Friday, the island nation has been in a state of emergency as looters pillaged, burned and vandalized shops in Haiti's capital Sunday following two days of violent protests over the government's attempt to raise fuel prices.

Journalists saw young men stripping shelves bare in some supermarkets that were charred from the protests. Several bodies lay among debris scattered in the streets.

With the situation still chaotic, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince on Sunday warned U.S. citizens to shelter in place. It noted that many airline flights had been canceled and said, "The airport has limited food and water available."

"Telecommunications services, including Internet and phone lines, have been affected throughout Haiti," the embassy added. "It may be difficult to reach people through normal communication methods."

American Airlines, which had canceled 10 flights since Saturday, said three of its planes had left Sunday from Port-au-Prince and the northern city of Cap-Haitien bound for Miami and New York. Dozens of people remained stranded at the airport in Port-au-Prince, unable to return to their hotels or other accommodations due to the blockage of streets and lack of transportation.

The cancellation of flights stranded church groups not just here in Florida but from a number of U.S. states, including South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

Chapin United Methodist Church in South Carolina posted online that its mission team was safe but stranded. Marcy Kenny, assimilation minister for the church, told The State newspaper that the group hoped the unrest would abate enough for them to safely make it to the airport.

A North Carolina doctor and his son were part of another medical mission group that was unable to leave. Shelley Collins told WRAL-TV that her husband, James, and their son made it to an airport but could not fly out.

Police Director-General Michel-Ange Gedeon ordered officers to crack down on what he called "bandits who disturb the peace and security of the country.”

At least three people were killed in protests Friday, and police said the bodies of four people were found Sunday in the streets of the Delmas district, though they didn't say if that was related to the protests.

The government on Saturday scrapped plans to raise fuel prices to 38 percent to 51 percent.