Des­per­a­tion, deaths rise days af­ter storm in Haiti

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By David McFad­den and Ben Fox

JEREMIE, Haiti — Sur­vivors of Hur­ri­cane Matthew put on their Sun­day finest and picked their way through downed power lines to pray in ru­ined churches, while des­per­a­tion grew in other parts of dev­as­tated Haiti and in­ter­na­tional res­cue ef­forts be­gan ramp­ing up.

Haitian author­i­ties were un­sure of the ex­tent of the dis­as­ter, with some com­mu­ni­ties still cut off. But tens of thou­sands of homes were lev­eled, and the num­ber of dead was in the hun­dreds.

Guil­laume Sil­vera, an of­fi­cial with the Civil Pro­tec­tion Agency in the GrandAnse De­part­ment, which in­cludes Jeremie, said 522 deaths were con­firmed there — not in­clud­ing peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties cut off by col­lapsed roads and bridges.

De­spite the loss, fam­i­lies packed what re­mained of the city’s churches, many seated in pews un­der open sky be­cause Matthew ripped away roofs and even walls of the sanc­tu­ar­ies. At least one was so badly dam­aged that wor­ship­pers prayed out­side.

Elise Pierre, who­said she was about 80, said she be­lieved it was a mir­a­cle that she and her loved ones sur­vived.

“If God wasn’t pro­tect­ing us we’d all be gone to­day, blown into the ocean or up into the moun­tains,” said Pierre, whose straw hat al­most con­cealed a gash on her fore­head she sus­tained when sheet metal from her roof col­lapsed dur­ing Matthew’s fury.

The sound of ham­mer­ing could be heard on nearly ev­ery street in Jeremie, a city near the tip of Haiti’s south­west penin­sula, as peo­ple patched their roofs as best as they Haitians pray at a de­stroyed church Sun­day in Jeremie. The death toll stands at 522, but of­fi­cials fear it will grow. could.

On one cor­ner, Jame­son Pierre was mix­ing ce­ment and mak­ing blocks. The 22-year-old storm refugee whose fam­ily was stuck in an emer­gency shel­ter, saw a bright side.

“There will be lots and lots of jobs since so many homes were knocked down. I’ve been work­ing for the last three days straight,” he said.

He said he was earn­ing about $1 a day.

The first two cargo planes of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid from the United States ar­rived Sat­ur­day at the Tous­saint Lou­ver­ture air­port in the cap­i­tal Port-au-Prince. U.S. Am­bas­sador Peter Mul­rean said three other planes are ex­pected to ar­rive in the next few days with more sup­plies.

Many of the vil­lages in the south­west­ern penin­sula are dif­fi­cult to reach. And peo­ple are grow­ing in­creas­ingly des­per­ate af­ter los­ing every­thing when the storm ripped through the area Tues­day.

Dony St. Ger­main, an of­fi­cial with El Shad­dai Min­istries In­ter­na­tional, said young men in vil­lages off the road be­tween the south­ern city of Les Cayes and Jeremie were start­ing to put up block­ades of rocks and bro­ken branches to halt con­voys.

“They are see­ing these con­voys com­ing through with sup­plies and they aren’t stop­ping. They are hun­gry and thirsty and some are get­ting an­gry,” said St. Ger­main.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that at least 350,000 peo­ple need as­sis­tance, and con­cern was grow­ing over an in­crease in cholera cases f ol­low­ing wide­spread flood­ing un­leashed by Matthew.

An on­go­ing cholera out­break has killed roughly 10,000 peo­ple and sick­ened more than 800,000 since 2010, when the in­fec­tious dis­ease was in­tro­duced into the coun­try’s big­gest river from a United Na­tions base where Nepalese peace­keep­ers were de­ployed.

The World Food Pro­gram said there has been mas­sive de­struc­tion of crops.

Hos­pi­tals and clin­ics have been dam­aged or de­stroyed as they strug­gle to deal with an in­crease in pa­tients with in­juries sus­tained dur­ing the storm as well as an ap­par­ent in­crease in cholera.

UNICEF said that in Grand-Anse there were 66,000 houses de­stroyed and 20,000 heav­ily dam­aged.

“In­for­ma­tion gath­ered from var­i­ous sources in the field sug­gests that the hu­man toll (dead and in­jured) will be heav­ier than the cur­rent of­fi­cial fig­ures,” the agency said.

DIEU NALIO CHERY/AP

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