- News & Reports
- Take action
- Donate to CHAN Site
Hurricane Sandy in Haiti: At least 51 dead and record rainfalls
Submitted by CHAN on October 27, 2012 - 17:25
By Jacqueline Charles and Curtis Morgan, The Miami Herald, Oct. 28, 2012
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe peered from the helicopter window and paused, as if needing time to process the ravaged landscape below: washed-out roads, rotting crops, flooded roads and raging rivers flowing with mud. “We have a big job to do,’’ Lamothe said to Sen. Steven Benoit, a member of the opposition party, who was along on a grim damage survey Saturday.
With the death toll rising to at least 51 and an estimated 200,000 homeless as a result of four days of relentless rain from Hurricane Sandy, Lamothe appealed for patience and called for investment in flood-control structures that are largely absent from the countryside. But he also expressed a weary frustration, one shared by many in this poor nation reeling from a string of natural disasters. With each one, he said, Haiti has taken a step backward. “It should not be normal that every time it rains, we have a catastrophe throughout the country,” Lamothe said.
As Haiti began what will be grueling months of cleanup from a powerful Category 2, 115-mph hurricane that left a trail of destruction and killed at least 64 people in the Caribbean, millions of people in the northeastern United States were bracing for what meteorologists and emergency managers fear could be a disaster of epic proportions...
In Haiti, the United Nations and the Haitian government were trying to put a price on the loss, but it will be an arduous process with many areas isolated by impassable roads. Once again, it had not taken a direct hit from a tropical storm to wreck Haiti — the core of Sandy, like Isaac earlier this year, had skirted the country.
The Office of Civil Protection raised the total of known dead in Haiti on Saturday to 51, with at least 15 missing and 18 injured. More than 21,107 were in shelters and an estimated 200,000 were homeless after the storm in a country where more than 350,000 are still homeless after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
Along Haiti’s hard-hit southern coast, no community seemed to have been spared. From the air, coconut trees looked like wet mops, large farms stood in pools of water and eroded soil from the denuded hillsides turned the sea the color of mocha.
Haitians were caught off guard by what some are calling “the Caribbean storm” because it came from the sea to the south, not out of the Atlantic Ocean. The storm, say Haitian and international aid officials, dumped more rain than Tropical Storm Isaac in August and Tomas in 2010 after the earthquake.
In the city of Les Cayes, among the hardest-hit areas, the storm dumped a stunning 27 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, said Johan Peleman, director of the United Nations humanitarian agency in Haiti.
In areas the government and aid agencies could reach, thousands of hot meals were to be distributed, Lamothe said. “Given the situation we are living today, it will not be easy,” he said. “We need the patience of everyone. We will not be able to get to everyone at the same time.”
Lamothe said the government plans to launch a country-wide retaining wall project to protect villages built along rivers criss-crossing the mountainous nation. In some communities like Leogane, rivers were still rising from flood water spilling down from the hills. “People cannot think that everything is over. Things are not over yet,” said Benoit, who invited himself on the helicopter tour. “This is a national problem.”
This story was supplemented by information from The Associated Press.
Hurricane Sandy 2012: Haiti fears death toll may rise
By Trenton Daniel, AP, Oct 27, 2012
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Hurricane Sandy is swirling off toward the U.S. East Coast, leaving the Caribbean to mourn the storm-related deaths of at least 43 people and clean up wrecked homes, felled power lines and fallen tree branches.
While Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas took direct hits from the storm, the majority of deaths and most extensive damage was in impoverished Haiti, where it has rained almost non-stop since Tuesday. The death toll in Haiti stood at 29 late Friday, but officials worried that the number could rise as searches continued in the country's ramshackle housing and denuded hillsides that are especially vulnerable to flooding when rains come.
Officials were concerned about a continuing rise in a river in the northern part of the capital, Port-au-Prince. People living nearby in mud-splattered, makeshift settlements kept a wary eye on the rush of muddy water. "If the river busts its banks, it's going to create a lot of problems. It might kill a lot of people," said 51-year-old Seroine Pierre. "If death comes, we'll accept it. We're suffering, we're hungry, and we're just going to die hungry."
Officials reported flooding across Haiti, where 370,000 people are still living in flimsy shelters as a result of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Nearly 17,800 people had to move to 131 temporary shelters, the Civil Protection Office said.
Among those hoping for a dry place to stay was 35-year-old Iliodor Derisma in Port-au-Prince, who said the storm had caused a lot of anguish. "It's wet all my clothes, and all the children aren't living well," he said. "We're hungry. We haven't received any food. If we had a shelter, that would be nice."
Officials at a morgue in the western town of Grand Goave said a mudslide crashed through a wooden home Thursday, killing 40-year-old Jacqueline Tatille and her four children, ranging in ages from 5 to 17. "If the rain continues, for sure we'll have more people die," morgue deputy Joseph Franck Laporte said. "The earth cannot hold the rain."
On Friday, President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe handed out water bottles to dozens of people in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood. They also distributed money to local officials to help clean up the damage.
Sandy left dozens of families homeless across Jamaica when it barreled across the island Wednesday as a Category 1 hurricane. One man was crushed to death by a boulder that tumbled into his house.
The storm then gained strength and hit eastern Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane early Thursday. Eleven people died in Santiago and Guantanamo provinces as wind and rain tore into thousands of homes. Authorities said it was Cuba's deadliest storm since July 2005, when Category 5 Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused $2.4 billion in damage. Official news media said the storm caused 5,000 houses to at least partially collapse while 30,000 others lost roofs. Banana, coffee, bean and sugar crops were damaged.
The storm then churned into the Bahamas archipelago...
Authorities in the Dominican Republic evacuated more than 18,100 people after the storm destroyed several bridges and isolated at least 130 communities. Heavy rains and wind also damaged an estimated 3,500 homes.