Hurricane hits Haiti, Jamaica

Sandy began in the southern Caribbean near Nicaragua, and when it passed over Jamaica, its winds were barely hurricane force. Still, Jamaica’s power company reports that 90 percent of its customers lost power, though only one fatality was reported there.

By the time Sandy passed over Cuba, it had strengthened sharply, sustaining winds of more than 110 miles per hour. As it churned over the Bahamas, it became a category 3 hurricane.

While the storm’s center did not pass over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the island of Hispaniola, which they share, got three days of high winds and heavy rains. Sandy passed to the west and then to the north.

Meanwhile, at least 350,000 people are still living in tents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, 34 months after the devastating 2010 earthquake. All these tent camps were flooded. Many people lost their homes and the few possessions they had in the high winds, which scattered thousands of tents and ripped the tarpaulins off of those that escaped destruction.

Video images from the Oct. 29 Washington Post show the camps’ residents trying to sleep on sodden bedding and wading through muddy paths.

There has been an uptick in cholera cases since Sandy passed. Most of the world’s cholera cases are now in Haiti; more than 7,500 people have died from it and 600,000 people have been sickened.

The story of Fifi Bouille captures all the misery and suffering that the people living in these camps face. She went into labor after Sandy struck. Only her sisters were present to help during her three hours of labor, while the winds tried to rip the canvas off the tent.

They decided, after they cut the umbilical cord, that the winds had become so fierce the newborn had to be moved to a new shelter But Bouille worried that her baby would not survive if she carried him there.

Mother and child are now sharing a tent with six other people, but Bouille only had one meal one day and none the next. Her food and pots were lost in the storm. (Guardian, Nov. 2)

Famine likely in southern Haiti

The Haitian government says that 54 people are confirmed dead and 20 missing. An Oct. 30 video report on French channel TF1 shows the devastation in southern Haiti has been nearly total, with almost all the crops ready for harvest there were destroyed. That means there is a serious threat of extreme hunger in rural communities, especially since roads and bridges have been destroyed.

In Abricots, on Haiti’s southwestern tip, Mayor Kechner Toussaint said, “We’ll have famine in the coming days. It’s an agricultural disaster.” (Caribbean360.com, Nov. 5)

Haiti President Michel Martelly has held a couple of photo ops, one in Martissant, a poor neighborhood just to the west of Port-au-Prince, and in Petionville, where he and his spouse spent a few hours handing out food baskets and vouchers to people in need. On Nov. 3, Martelly left on a private trip to Florida, whose purpose and duration were not announced.

Haiti Prime Minister Laurence Lamothe announced, without providing any details, that the government had allocated $9 million to aid those injured by Sandy. He appealed for international assistance.

Nestor Reverol, Venezuelan Minister of Domestic Affairs and Justice, announced on Oct. 27 that Venezuela had loaded 240 tons of nonperishable food, rice, spaghetti, drinking water and equipment needed to remove debris onto a ship and sent it to Haiti, reports the Oct. 31 Haïti-Liberté. Haitian authorities reported that the ship had arrived and was being unloaded. Venezuela also sent a ship with aid to Cuba.

Reverol explained that this assistance was a “gesture of our commitment to our Latin American and Caribbean brothers … to whom we are sending this humanitarian aid which will allow them to cover their needs in one way or another.” (Venezuelaanalysis.com, Nov. 2)

Venezuela was the first country to send aid to Haiti after Hurricane Sandy. It was also the first country to send aid after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.