DEVASTATING HURRICANE SANDY SLAMS INTO HAITI DESTROYING LIVES AND PROPERTY
(Guardian Express) -
Devastation slams into Haiti as life and property are destroyed by
Hurricane Sandy. In the midst of the destruction, a nationwide damage
assessment in Haiti authorities say 44 have died from Hurricane
Sandy?s torrential winds.
As Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe of Haiti peered from the helicopter
window he paused, as if needing time to process the ravaged landscape
below: washed-out roads, rotting crops, flooded roads and raging
rivers flowing with mud.
"We have a big job to do,?" Lamothe said to Sen. Steven Benoit, a
member of the opposition party, who was along on a grim damage survey
With the death toll rising to at least 44 and an estimated 200,000
homeless as a result of four days of relentless rain from Hurricane
Sandy, Lamothe appealed for patience and called for investment in
flood-control structures that are largely absent from the countryside.
But he also expressed a weary frustration, one shared by many in this
poor nation reeling from a string of natural disasters. With each one,
he said, Haiti has taken a step backward.
"It should not be normal that every time it rains, we have a
catastrophe throughout the country," Lamothe said.
As Haiti began what will be grueling months of cleanup from a powerful
Category 2, 115-mph hurricane that left a trail of destruction and
killed at least 57 people in the Caribbean, millions of people in the
northeastern United States were bracing for what meteorologists and
emergency managers fear could be a disaster of epic proportions.
Nine states called out the National Guard in preparation for the
aftermath that Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, said Saturday could hammer an 800-mile swath of the
country from North Carolina to Maine with a messy mix of intense
rains, storm surge heightened by extreme tides, gale-force winds and
up to two feet of snow in some states.
Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said it
was too soon to say which states were going to get the worst weather
but the storm could affect a huge swath of the Northeast ? and not
just along the coast. West Virginia, for instance, could see two feet
of snow and flooding rains, and damaging winds could reach Ohio, he
said during a conference call Saturday.
"We need to make sure people understand that this is going to go well
inland," Fugate said.
Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in West
Miami-Dade, said Sandy?s wind field is so massive that conditions will
begin deteriorating this week along the Outer Banks of North Carolina,
even though the center of the storm makes landfall possibly near the
coast of Delaware and New Jersey late Monday or early Tuesday.
Hurricane Sandy was expected to mesh with two winter weather systems
as it moves inland, creating a super-storm some experts fear could
prove more costly than Hurricane Irene, which hit the same area last
year and caused more than $15 billion in damage.
In Haiti, the United Nations and the Haitian government were trying to
put a price on the loss, but it will be an arduous process with many
areas isolated by impassable roads. Once again, it had not taken a
direct hit from a tropical storm to wreck Haiti; the core of Sandy,
like Isaac earlier this year, had skirted the country.
The Office of Civil Protection raised the total of known dead in Haiti
on Saturday to 44, with at least 12 missing and 19 injured. More than
21,107 were in shelters and an estimated 200,000 were homeless after
the storm in a country where more than 350,000 are still homeless
after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
Along Haiti's hard-hit southern coast, no community seemed to have
been spared. From the air, coconut trees looked like wet mops, large
farms stood in pools of water and eroded soil from the denuded
hillsides turned the sea the color of mocha.
Haitians were caught off guard by what some are calling ?the Caribbean
storm? because it came from the sea to the south, not out of the
The storm, say Haitian and international aid officials, dumped more
rain than Tropical Storm Isaac in August and Tomas in 2010 after the
In the city of Les Cayes, among the hardest-hit areas, the storm
dumped a stunning 27 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, said Johan
Peleman, director of the United Nations humanitarian agency in Haiti.
In areas the government and aid agencies could reach, thousands of hot
meals were to be distributed, Lamothe said.
"Given the situation we are living today, it will not be easy," he
said. "We need the patience of everyone. We will not be able to get to
everyone at the same time."
Lamothe said the government plans to launch a country-wide retaining
wall project to protect villages built along rivers criss-crossing the
In some communities like Leogane, rivers were still rising from flood
water spilling down from the hills.
"People cannot think that everything is over. Things are not over
yet," said Benoit, who invited himself on the helicopter tour. "This
is a national problem."
The NHC said the hurricane will move parallel to the southeast coast
of the United states during the weekend.
In Cuba, powerful winds and torrential rains associated with Sandy
destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, stores, warehouses and
plantations, mainly in Santiago de Cuba and Holguin.
From North Carolina to the coastal edges of Maine, public officials
urged residents to fortify themselves against Hurricane Sandy, which
is expected to unleash torrential rains and winds of up to 75 mph,
even for those residing as far as 100 miles from the storm?s center.
State and federal officials are planning for several days of
treacherous conditions throughout the Mid-Atlantic States. As much as
8 inches of rain is expected to hit those states. In addition, two
feet of snow will perhaps bury mountain areas inn North Carolina,
Virginia and West Virginia.