Hurricane Matthew update: Floods, landslides, torrential rain

People who left their homes in advance of the storm queuing for food at an emergency shelter in Grand Anse

Jean-Michel Vigreux, Country Director of CARE Haiti, sent this update on the night of 4 October, when the hurricane was passing directly over the southern peninsula of Haiti:

The southern part of Haiti has been particularly heavily hit and is now cut off from the rest of the country. The impacts of Matthew there are hard to evaluate as communication is very difficult, but we know of floods, landslides and continuous heavy rains in some areas of the South.

We also heard of destroyed houses, streets and bridges, dead livestock, destroyed livelihoods. But we don’t know the exact impact yet. We currently (as of Tuesday midnight, local time) aren’t able to communicate with our team in one region, Grande Anse. It is very scary.

“The situation is similar to Hurricanes Sandy or Isaac: the government estimates damage of about 1 billion US-dollars. We will need emergency aid and reconstruction for a longer period.

“The populations are very poor, some have left their houses but also their means of earning a living. There are between 10,000 and 15,000 temporarily displaced people - those in high-risk areas. There’s not much impact in the Central Plateau and the department of Artibonite.

“There were strong winds in the capital of Port-au-Prince, trees were uprooted, electric lines cut off. There was a lot of water on the streets and in the suburb of Carrefour. CARE has distributed blankets and buckets at 11 in the morning before the storm hit.

“We currently hear of 5 deaths but this will increase. CARE prepares a response for 8,000-10,000 families, that means 50,000 people.”

We do experience recurring crises in Haiti, people are still feeling the long-term effects of the earthquake, then the cholera outbreak in 2010, two cyclones, one tropical storm, two droughts. The population is very strained. Strengthening people’s resilience and boosting the reconstruction are key.

CARE’s response:

  • The hurricane was moving incredibly slowly dumping rain on Haiti. Due to deforestation, rain like this can cause deadly flooding and mud slides. With the amount of rain, there’s also increased risk of water-borne diseases, like cholera.
  • With the amount of flooding expected, the most immediate need will be clean drinking water as water sources will be contaminated. Also critical needs will be food, emergency shelter, and hygiene items.
  • CARE has already started distributing food and clean drinking water to some of the emergency shelters in Grand Anse, South-East, and Port-au-Prince.
  • In remote areas of Grand Anse that will be difficult to access after the storm, CARE pre-positioned supplies of clean drinking water, tarps, and blankets for emergency shelter and hygiene kits.
  • Due to the anticipated massive flooding contaminating water sources, CARE is mobilizing to provide clean drinking water and distribute water purification tablets.
  • We will coordinate with the government and UN community to assess the damages and scale up our response as soon as we know more about the needs.

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