Saturday, September 8, 2012

Windy Weather

Haiti Update - September 8, 2012

“... The Lord has his way, in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:3)

Hi! Haiti is a country that is susceptible to natural disasters. When I went on the internet on Wednesday the first thing I noticed was a breaking news report of an earthquake of 7.6 that hit Costa Rica and that there was a tsunami alert for the Caribbean. I ran outside to tell the people in our yard about the alert and then went back to the computer. The alert was updated and the Caribbean was not at risk for a tsunami. I then went back outside and told everyone that it was a false alarm! I felt sorry for the people living in Costa Rica and figured there must have been a lot of damage, and loss of life, only to find out later that there was just 1 death due to a heart attack during the earthquake and that buildings were still standing in Costa Rica. I hope and pray that construction in Haiti will improve to the same levels as other developed areas of the world.

Last Sunday morning at around 8:00am there was a 3.7 earthquake in Haiti, which was located 4 km south of Leogane and 33km WSW of Port-au-Prince. We never felt anything here at Coram Deo.

A few weeks ago 100 earthquake experts met in the Dominican Republic. Representatives from Caribbean countries attended. What was stressed is that the islands of the Caribbean are located in a seismic zone that is active and that an earthquake of 8.0 may arrive at any moment along with a tsunami risk. A Haitian seismologist stated that another earthquake for Haiti is imminent and could happen at any time. There is a strong possibility/certainty that Cap Haitien will one day suffer the same fate as Port-au-Prince did. Wednesday’s earthquake in Costa Rica sure is a reminder to be aware!

We are in the middle of hurricane season and Haiti was visited by Tropical Storm Isaac almost 2 weeks ago. We monitor the National Hurricane Centre’s website daily to monitor the progress of storms. There was a possibility that Isaac would form into a Category 1 Hurricane before passing through Haiti. The storm slowed down as it neared Haiti. We thought we would see effects in the afternoon but it wasn’t until late in the evening that Isaac showed its’ effects.

The winds started and soon my cell phone rang. Someone we know that lives in a refuge camp called to say that the winds were causing problems and that the people were scared and praying. Isaac never reached hurricane strength when it hit Haiti and everyone is thankful for that, but even as a tropical storm a lot of damage was caused by flooding and the winds. We never had flying projectiles of coconuts going through the yard but the flying projectiles of almonds falling off the tree and hitting the tin roof of the kitchen shelter sure made a lot of noise! A window screen fell onto my bed and I decided that I didn’t want to lie in bed anymore and checked out the house instead. The winds eventually died down and then there was just the rain.

In the morning we checked out how Port-au-Prince weathered the storm and in some places there were large tree branches that had fallen. The government had work crews out removing debris from the storm. Some tents in the refuge camps were destroyed. We saw the Grise River was full with storm runoff and flooding its’ banks in some places. The bridge in Croix-des-Missions was closed to vehicular traffic due to the flooding river. In the Gressier region the Momanse River was enlarged by 50 meters by the flooding waters.

The most damage was done in the South-East and West (Port-au-Prince) departments of the country. 165 camps were affected by Isaac. 18 refuge camps were evacuated by civil protection officials. 15,812 families were evacuated from the camps, 24 people lost their lives either in landslides, drowning or electrocution, and 42 people were injured. Tents were ripped by the winds as well as tin roofs being ripped off of homes. It wasn’t just the refuge camps where the storms effects were felt. In one government report it was stated that 1,144 homes were flooded, 1,005 homes destroyed and 6,040 homes damaged. 8,189 families are now homeless after the storm.

Vanessa (a hydrocephalus girl) and her family live in Fond Verette, a mountain region near the Dominican border. Their home was destroyed by the winds of Isaac. When Vanessa’s mother called me I could hear hammering in the background as the family was putting together a shelter to live in. We had a large tarp that we gave to the family. The road was blocked until a landslide and a large boulder was cleared from the mountain road. Her sister picked up the tarp a couple of days later.

Pastor Pierre’s church and some of the church member’s homes suffered some damage due to the windy conditions. Some homes were lost to landslides and others by having their roofs ripped off by the winds.

Floridalaine is a young girl who was born with congenital cataracts. The last couple of weeks we have been bringing her for tests and appointments to General Hospital in the hopes of getting cataract surgery for her. Her family lives in the mountains of Kenscoff. Her father told me that they lost their crop to the storm. He had planted beans and potatoes and harvest time would have been in October. Now many families have lost their crops in addition to their homes. Selling of their harvest creates an income for paying for school for their children and for seed for the next planting season. Many families in the Kenscoff area lost their crops and a few people lost their lives in the landslides.

Agriculture took a big hit during the storm. Before Isaac appeared agricultural production was already affected by a 40% loss in crop yields due to the dry season. Banana plantations, coffee, avocado, and rice crops were almost totally destroyed in certain regions by Isaac. Fruit was affected as well. Thousands of animals were carried away by flooding rivers. It is estimated that agriculture suffered $242 million US$ in damage. The irrigation system in the South-East and the Cul-de-Sac plain is severely damaged. Pray for families who live in the farming areas. Hunger could become a problem in the next few months due to the effects of losing their crops. Pray that those who lost their homes will be able to rebuild or find other shelter for their families, especially since hurricane season isn’t over until the end of November.

Internet and cell phone service was affected by the storm. The Digicel and Voila cell phone companies had service interruptions that took some time to restore. Our internet service was out of order for 4 days. We found out that Natcom, which is the state/private Vietnamese telephone/cell/internet provider maintained services after Isaacs’ passage. We purchased a jump stick to be able to pay a daily rate for internet service. The government used the Natcom building as a communications hub due to the damage to the other company sites. After the storm the government sent out financial assistance to some families by transferring mobile money to their cell phones that they could use to purchase food. It is great to see how technology can help during disasters.

Electricity was off throughout the city during the storm. 30 of the 32 electrical circuits were knocked out of service by Isaac. After a couple of days we had electricity again. Other areas of the city took longer to restore to service. The invertor and generator came in handy to supply us with power during the city-wide black-out. All EDH electrical circuits are now in service again. Isaac caused 336 million gourds ($8 million US$) damage to the electrical system of Port-au-Prince. Isaac destroyed 230 transformers, 2,200 electric poles and damaged 120 km of circuits. EDH did a good job at making repairs with the limited resources that they have in the last couple of weeks.

The European Community has given $3 million Euros to Haiti for Isaac disaster relief funding.

Crime did not come to a standstill during the storm. A 56-year-old woman was kidnapped as Isaac passed through Haiti. It looks like the kidnappers saw the storm as a good opportunity. A dead new-born baby was found on a street in the Christ-Roi area of Port-au-Prince. It looks like a home-birth that went wrong. It wouldn’t have been possible for the woman to go to the hospital while she was in labour during the storm and I guess you could consider this baby’s death as an Isaac victim.

This update has been a natural disaster update for Haiti. Pray that the country re-builds taking things like tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes into consideration.

That’s all the news for today. Have a good weekend!

Karen Bultje, Coram Deo