Many left homeless without food or clothes, Bishop Duracin reports
The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is trying to evaluate the needs of Haitians in the wake of four storms that have battered Hispaniola in less than a month.
"What has happened is very hard to us," Bishop Jean Zache Duracin wrote September 10 in response to an email inquiry from ENS. "As you may know, many people died, disappeared (or are) hurt. The whole (of) Haiti has been affected, a country where the socio-economic situation was already bad. Many people have been left homeless, with no food and clothes, etc."
"Many of our church buildings have been affected. We are now doing an evaluation of what we have lost, but because of problems of communication, that will take some time."
Bishop Duracin, noting that usually in such situations many people wait for the church to respond, wrote that "the church here is making efforts to help. We are preparing to send food and other primary necessity materials to victims, but because of lack of ways of communication our work is very difficult."
The islands of Hispaniola (which includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Cuba were already reeling from the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Gustav and tropical storms Fay and Hanna.
Hurricane Ike rampaged over Haiti for about four days in early September, killing at least 58 people, according to news reports. The storm went on to make landfall in Cuba late on September 7 with Category 3 winds of 111 miles an hour and greater. It raked the island on the 8th, turned slightly out to sea and made a second landfall in western Cuba at 10:30 a.m. on September 9 in the extreme southeastern part of Pinar del Rio province, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The storm reportedly caused a five-story storm surge that devastated some coastal towns.
Ike killed four people on Cuba September 8 and forcing at least a million others to flee. There were no confirmed casualties in the Bahamas or in the Turks and Caicos, although a survivor told the Associated Press on Grand Turk that 90% of the tiny island's structures had been destroyed.
"The greatest damage in the [Cuban] Province of Camaguey was to the city of Camaguey, Florida, Cesepedes and Esmeralda," the Rev. Evelio Pérez of Esmeralda in Cuba wrote on September 9 in an email Julia Sullivan, chair of the Diocese of Florida's companion diocese committee with Cuba. "In La Gloria it was not as bad, but the roofs are damaged."
Perez also reported that "agriculture in general is in a state of collapse and we are without electricity since Sunday night and the water we had reserved is running out." Food, especially milk, is also becoming scarce, he wrote. The price of gasoline has risen to about $76.75 per gallon due to a combination of scarcity and a government-ordered increase, according to Perez.
The combined storms have claimed the lives of 500 people in the flooded Haitian city of Gonaives, with officials fearing that this number will be revised upward, according to Episcopal Relief and Development. "In that city alone, over 250,000 are without shelter, food and water. Across the country there are 800,000 people, roughly 10 percent of the population, in severe need of aid," said an ERD release.
While most of Haiti was hit, the three most affected regions are Gonaives, the Department of South-East and the Department of Nippes.
In response to Hurricane Gustav, ERD is partnering with the Diocese of Haiti's development office to deliver aid to more than 1,000 people in the southern part of the country. ERD is also providing aid in the northern part of the country to affected populations in response to Hanna and Ike. Development office staff members are on site in the affected areas, networking with local priests to deliver food, medical supplies, clothing and seeds, ERD said.
CNN reported September 10 that the United States, which provided $100,000 in emergency aid to communist-run Cuba through private aid agencies after Hurricane Gustav hit the island August 30, was considering additional emergency aid for the island nation because of Ike. The U.S. said it will lift restrictions on cash and humanitarian assistance sent to Cuba for the next 90 day, which will allow nongovernmental organizations to provide assistance and cash donations.
The U.S. Navy sent its amphibious assault ship Kearsarge to Port-au-Prince to assist in ferrying disaster relief to victims cut off by collapsed bridges and flooded towns along the sole road to stricken areas north of the capital, the Los Angeles Times reported. In contrast to the $100,000 in assistance offered Cuba, Washington gave Haitian storm victims $10 million, the Times noted.
At 2:00 p.m. on September 10 Ike, which had increased to a Category 2 storm by that time, was beginning to regain strength as it moved slowly toward the northwest into the central Gulf of Mexico with winds near 100 miles per hour. NOAA said the storm was located 395 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm is expected to move towards to the west-northwest during the next few days.
Coastal storm surge flooding along the coasts of Cuba and the Florida Keys was predicted to subside September 10, according to NOAA, while tides two to four feet above normal are already occurring along much of the northern Gulf coast.
"Ike is expected to become a major hurricane with the next 24 hours," NOAA said in its 2:00 p.m. advisory. NOAA's projected path places a possible landfall near Galveston, Texas, about 7:00 a.m. September 13.
Texans in Brazoria County and the city of Galveston face a mix of mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders September 10, the New York Times reported.
Article from: Episcopal News Service – by Mary Frances Schjonberg