Saturday, November 06, 2010

Hurricane Tomas soaks Haiti

Hurricane Tomas has passed Haiti and is again being downgraded to a tropical storm, but the downgrading is too late for the residents of the Haitian tent camps. The storm brought with it flooding in the tent camps, as residents got flushed out and had to head to higher ground or to dry shelters. Despite evacuation efforts some were afraid to leave tent camps out of fear of being evicted. Only four deaths so far have been attributed to the storm.

We have snippets from two different stories written by Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz. First an article that we found at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette gives us the general details.

Driving 85-mph winds and a lashing storm surge battered Leogane, a seaside town west of Port-au-Prince that was 90 percent destroyed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

In one refugee camp, dozens of families carried their belongings through thigh-high floodwaters to a taxi stand on higher ground, huddling under blankets and a sign that read “Welcome to Leogane.”

“We got flooded out and we’re just waiting for the storm to pass. There’s nothing we can do,” said Johnny Joseph, a 20-year-old resident.

Four deaths were confirmed by Haitian officials, all people attempting to cross rivers by car or on foot in the mountainous region to the west of Leogane, on Haiti’s far southwestern tip. Two more people were missing in Leogane.

Tomas had earlier killed at least 14 people in the eastern Caribbean. On Friday it came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, pummeling Haiti’s southern peninsula, before moving on to the rest of the country, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas.

Our second snippet that we found at the Guardian describes the anger that the storm only heightened.

Protesters in Leogane took to the streets in the pouring rain, beating drums and blasting horns as they lambasted officials for failing to build a canal along a river that has overflowed repeatedly in the past. Floodwaters filled people's homes, swirling around the furniture and framed pictures.

"When it rains the water rises and causes so much damage. We want them to dig a canal to move the water," said Frantz Hilair, a 28-year-old motorcycle-taxi driver. "We have a mayor and the deputy, but they don't do anything."

Local authorities blamed the federal government.

Haitian authorities had urged the 1.3 million people left homeless by the earthquake in Port-au-Prince to leave the refugee camps and go to the homes of friends and family. Buses were sent to take those who wanted to evacuate to shelters.

But many chose to stay in the camps' donated plastic tarps out of fear that if they didn't, they would be permanently evicted from the private land where they have been camped out since the quake. They also feared losing their few possessions.

A near-riot broke out amid a poorly coordinated relocation effort at the government's flagship camp at Corail-Cesselesse when residents began overturning tables and throwing bottles to protest what they saw as a forced removal.

About a third of the camp's nearly 8,000 residents ultimately went to shelters in a nearby school, church and hospital, American Refugee Committee camp manager Bryant Castro said. But there was no space for many others, who were forced to ride out the storm in the open.

1 comment:

Don Stoll said...

Is it too early for follow-up of your alarming post from two days ago that Tomas could spread cholera in Haiti? Only a history of grim misfortune such as Haitians have experienced would make the handful of deaths caused so far by Tomas seem nearly merciful, but the confluence of Tomas with cholera suggests that much worse lies ahead.