Haiti was struggling under the weight of a slowly rebuilding infrastructure, struggling economy, and loss of entire towns from the earthquake that left more than 200,000 people dead, even before Hurricane Matthew barreled into it, with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, according to The Guardian, and that fact alone leaves the people of Haiti particularly vulnerable to crisis, particularly when it is the massive scale of a natural disaster.
A 10-year-old girl describes the fear and destruction that she and her family suffered when the hurricane slammed into Haiti at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
“It happened so quickly and suddenly. I heard my neighbor screaming: ‘Water! Water everywhere!’ It had completely surrounded us. The water was like a monster, hitting everything violently.”
The girl and her brothers and sisters ran to higher ground and escaped with their lives, but lost everything they owned. Their home was completely washed away. Sadly, this is a common story of the Hurricane Matthew experience in Haiti, where help is arriving too little and too late in some cases. Because a major bridge was taken out that led to Port au Prince, many people cannot get the help they need. As of this afternoon, The Guardian reported that at least 600 people were feared dead among the rubble and ruin. True numbers are hard to come by, because so many people were displaced and missing.
The Red Cross has estimated that more than a million Haitians were affected, either by loss of their homes or loss of life. MSN says that over 800 deaths have been confirmed already, and that number is expected to rise because clinics have already seen death by cholera, which was a fear of humanitarian aid workers. Cholera is a possible consequence when food and water sources mix with raw sewage and are consumed. In hurricane and earthquake situations, that is always a threat to survivors, especially those that have no access to bottled water. Pan American Health Organization said that cholera is likely to take many more lives than the actual storm did, as was the case with the hurricane.
“Due to massive flooding and its impact on water and sanitation infrastructure, cholera cases are expected to surge after Hurricane Matthew and through the normal rainy season until the start of 2017.”
Jean-Pierre Jean-Donald, 27 years old, had been married for a year when the hurricane winds hit, and a large tree fell on his house. He describes the devastation that followed.
“A tree fell on the house and flattened it, the entire house fell on us. I couldn’t get out. People came to lift the rubble, and then we saw my wife who had died in the same spot.”
Cell towers are down, there is no electricity, and food is scarce in many communities, multiple agencies are reporting. Townspeople are helping each other, offering what little they have to each other. Bellony Amazan said she had no food to give people, but her house had not been destroyed.
“My house wasn’t destroyed, so I am receiving people, like it’s a temporary shelter, but I have no food to offer.”
Many people were in dire situations with the roadways washed away and covered by the sea; there is no way for significant relief efforts to reach them yet, according to MSN. BBC reports the same, saying that numbers of dead and dying are changing all the time, and that things may get much worse before aid arrives. World Food Programme’s Haiti director, Mr. Veloso, said it was “an ever changing situation.”
“I think that for the next four or five days, maybe only in five days, we will have a more clear picture of the impact and the death toll.”
[Featured Image by Ramon Espinosa/AP Images]