Relief Workers Aid Haitians Post-Hurricane Matthew

The storm resulted in severe damage and hundreds of deaths in the island-nation.

Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti Oct. 4.
Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti Oct. 4. (photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — Hurricane Matthew caused severe damage and hundreds of deaths in Haiti, and relief workers have started to evaluate the damage.

“Catholic Relief Services teams are out today to get a sense of the level of damage in Les Cayes and surrounding areas and to determine the greatest needs,” Catholic Relief Services’ communications director, Kim Pozniak, told CNA Oct. 5. “Our response is likely to include distribution of potable water, hygiene and kitchen kits and shelter materials.”

The supplies were pre-positioned in a Les Cayes warehouse, Pozniak said, adding that if they are undamaged “we’re ready to respond as soon as we determine the areas of greatest need.”

The hurricane made landfall on Haiti at 7am local time Oct. 4, with winds up to 145 mph. The storm has passed Cuba and is in the Bahamas and is set to arrive in Florida. Some Florida residents are being evacuated from their homes. The storm is also expected to affect Georgia and the Carolinas.

There are several confirmed deaths in Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic. Several thousand people have been displaced from their homes.

Relief workers feared heavy rains and a storm surge that can cause heavy damage in a city with many hills and ravines and poor drainage infrastructure. Hill-dwellers faced risks from high winds and landslides.

Many people rejected calls to evacuate, fearing looters would steal their belongings.

CRS reported that crop damage and the destruction of stored food supplies could cause a short-term spike in food prices and long-term problems with food supplies. Les Cayes, in southwest Haiti, is a major agricultural center.

The hurricane is the worst disaster to hit Haiti since the massive 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince killed hundreds of thousands of people. The country is also suffering a cholera outbreak.

Haiti’s presidential election is scheduled for Sunday.

Chris Bessy, the agency’s country representative based in Port-au-Prince, said Oct. 4 that the infrastructure of Les Cayes is unable to handle immense rainfall in low-lying areas.

Bessey later told The Washington Post that the storm blew off part of the roof of Catholic Relief Services’ two-story building in Les Cayes and knocked out the generator. The storm cut off the main road to southern Haiti by washing out a bridge at Petit-Goave.

CRS is repairing damage to the facility in addition to evaluating the needs of area residents.

Catholic Relief Services said it has a “robust network of logistical and human resources.”  It was prepared to provide emergency shelters in the hardest-hit areas and provide cash to those affected in the regional capitals of Jeremie and Les Cayes for critical supplies.

Before the storm made landfall, the agency was working with local governments to inspect and secure shelters and to move people there.

CRS has worked in Haiti since 1954’s Hurricane Hazel.

The agency is seeking support for its hurricane response.

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