Death toll climbs Body count rises as Haiti digs out from Hur­ri­cane Matthew

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE -

AJEREMIE, Haiti (AP): S THE death toll con­tin­ues to rise in Haiti fol­low­ing the pas­sage of dan­ger­ous Hur­ri­cane Matthew, some news agen­cies are re­port­ing that more than 800 peo­ple have died and tens of thou­sands have been left home­less.

The num­ber of deaths in Haiti, the poor­est coun­try in the Amer­i­cas, is said to have surged past 840 as of­fi­cials get in­for­ma­tion from re­mote ar­eas pre­vi­ously cut off by the storm.

Saint-Vic­tor Je­une, an of­fi­cial with the civil pro­tec­tion agency work­ing in Beau­mont, in the moun­tains on the out­skirts of hard-hit Jeremie, said 82 bod­ies found by his team had not been recorded by au­thor­i­ties in the cap­i­tal be­cause of spotty com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Most ap­peared to have died from fall­ing de­bris from the winds that tore through the area at 145 mph (235 kph) on Tues­day.

“We don’t have any con­tact with Por­tau-Prince yet and there are places we still haven’t reached,” Je­une said as he and a team of civil pro­tec­tion agents in or­ange vests combed through the area.

VIL­LAGES SUB­MERGED

The storm left signs of dev­as­ta­tion all around the south­west­ern penin­sula. Out­side the coastal town of Jeremie, home af­ter home was in ru­ins. Drew Gar­ri­son, a Haiti-based mis­sion­ary who flew in yes­ter­day, said sev­eral fish­ing vil­lages along the coast were sub­merged

and he could see bod­ies float­ing in the water.

“Any­thing that wasn’t con­crete was flat­tened,” said Gar­ri­son, whose or­gan­i­sa­tion, Mis­sion of Hope Haiti, based in Austin, Texas, was bring­ing in a barge loaded with emer­gency sup­plies to­day. There were sev­eral lit­tle fish­ing vil­lages that just looked des­o­late, no life.”

So­lette Phe­licin, a mother of five who lost her home and her small fruit and veg­etable plot, watched from her yard as United Na­tions (UN) peace­keep­ers pa­trolled the small airstrip. She said that they were hun­gry and des­per­ately in need of food. “Jeremie might get re­built af­ter I’m dead, maybe, but I doubt it.”

As Haitians mourned their losses,

they tried to re­cover what they could of their be­long­ings. Homes through­out the area were piles of rub­ble, the roofs man­gled or stripped away.

DEV­AS­TA­TION EV­ERY­WHERE

Work­ers from the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Mi­gra­tion and other groups were go­ing through the area to as­sess the da­m­age and pro­vide as­sis­tance, though their ef­forts were ham­pered by dam­aged roads, rough ter­rain and other fac­tors.

“Dev­as­ta­tion is ev­ery­where,” said Pilus Enor, mayor of Camp Per­rin, a town near the port city of Les Cayes on the penin­sula’s south shore. “Ev­ery house has lost its roof.”

Of­fi­cials were es­pe­cially con­cerned

about the de­part­ment of Grand-Anse on the north­ern tip of the penin­sula, where they be­lieve the death toll and da­m­age is high­est.

Em­manuel Pierre, an In­te­rior Min­istry co­or­di­na­tor in Les Cayes, told The As­so­ci­ated Press late on Thurs­day that au­thor­i­ties had counted 283 peo­ple dead in one part of Haiti’s hard-hit south­west, but that did not in­clude Grand-Anse or its sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Death tolls are fre­quently dif­fi­cult to tab­u­late in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter in any coun­try, though it is par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult in re­mote and moun­tain­ous south­west Haiti.

When Cat­e­gory 4 Hur­ri­cane Flora hit

Haiti in 1963, it killed as many as 8,000 peo­ple.

More bod­ies be­gan to ap­pear on Thurs­day as wa­ters re­ceded in some places two days af­ter Matthew’s 145 mph (235 kph) winds smashed con­crete walls, flat­tened palm trees and tore roofs off homes, forc­ing thou­sands of Haitians to flee.

Those killed in Haiti in­cluded a woman and her six-year-old daugh­ter who fran­ti­cally aban­doned their flimsy home and headed to a nearby church to seek shel­ter as Matthew surged in early on Tues­day, said Ernst Ais, mayor of the town of Cavail­lon.

“On the way to the church, the wind took them,” Ais said.

Of­fi­cials said that food and water were ur­gently needed, not­ing that crops had been lev­eled, wells in­un­dated by sea­wa­ter and some water treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties de­stroyed.

POS­SI­BLE CHOLERA SURGE

Of­fi­cials with the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion warned about a pos­si­ble surge in cholera cases be­cause of the wide­spread flood­ing caused by Matthew. Haiti’s cholera out­break has killed roughly 10,000 peo­ple and sick­ened more than 800,000 since 2010, when it was in­tro­duced into the coun­try’s big­gest river from a UN base where Nepalese peace­keep­ers were de­ployed.

Haiti’s govern­ment has es­ti­mated that at least 350,000 peo­ple need some kind of as­sis­tance in what is likely to be the coun­try’s worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis since the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake of Jan­uary 2010.

In­ter­na­tional aid groups are al­ready ap­peal­ing for do­na­tions for a lengthy re­cov­ery ef­fort in Haiti, the hemi­sphere’s least-de­vel­oped and most aid-de­pen­dent na­tion.

AP

Sain­tanor Duter­vil stands with his wife in the ru­ins of their home – with hardly more than the door­way left be­hind – de­stroyed by Hur­ri­cane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, last Thurs­day.

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