Hur­ri­cane Matthew re­lief ef­fort in Haiti en­ters new phase

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER -

An in­ter­na­tional re­lief ef­fort for vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Matthew en­tered a more ad­vanced stage Thurs­day as a sec­ond U.S. mil­i­tary ship ar­rived off the coast and U.N. con­voys and non­govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions be­gan reach­ing more iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties.

Food, clean wa­ter and con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als have be­gun pour­ing into the south­west­ern penin­sula, though many peo­ple there still say they’ve seen lit­tle or no aid.

Those work­ing to send ev­ery­thing from wa­ter pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems to build­ing ma­te­ri­als say the scope of the dam­age from Matthew and the dif­fi­culty reach­ing peo­ple cre­ate lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges sim­i­lar to those faced af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake that struck the crowded cap­i­tal and sur­round­ing ar­eas in Jan­uary 2010. But while the death toll from last week’s storm is in the hun­dreds, the Haitian govern­ment has said the earth­quake killed more than 300,000.

“There’s just so much to do, not to make it more than the earth­quake, but it’s so wide­spread, it’s ev­ery­thing across the board,” said Chris Bessey, the coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices.

The Haitian govern­ment says more than 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple ur­gently need hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance. The of­fi­cial death toll is 473, though lo­cal of­fi­cials have re­ported fig­ures sug­gest­ing it will even­tu­ally be higher, and the homes of more than 120,000 fam­i­lies were dam­aged or de­stroyed. Many peo­ple across the ruggedly scenic penin­sula have watched pass­ing aid trucks in grow­ing frus­tra­tion.

“I’m look­ing at my life and I don’t know what to do. It seems like some­body is get­ting help but it is not us,” said Wat­son Hy­po­lite, a 66-year-old in the bad­ly­hit Grande Anse district of Beau­mont as trucks with the lo­gos of the U.N. and In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion, guarded by peace­keep­ers, passed him on a moun­tain­ous gravel road.

But amid the chal­lenges, the re­lief ef­fort has risen vis­i­bly in re­cent days. Teams from the Haitian Red Cross and Civil Pro­tec­tion agency have fanned out across the penin­sula and large con­voys from the U.N. and the mi­gra­tion agency are seen more through­out the disas­ter zone. On Wed­nes­day, the U.S. mil­i­tary made 13 heli­copter flights to hard-tore­ach ar­eas with 159 met­ric tons of food sup­plies, the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment said.

David Har­den, head of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance for the USAID, said the Hur­ri­cane Matthew re­lief ef­fort was akin to the sit­u­a­tion faced dur­ing other ma­jor dis­as­ters such as the Nepal earth­quake in April 2015 or the Philip­pines typhoon in Novem­ber 2013, both of which also had much higher death tolls.

“What com­pli­cates it is lo­gis­tics, re­mote ar­eas, hard-hit ar­eas, and a lack of capacity,” Har­den said. “These are poor coun­tries, that’s why it’s tougher there than in Miami.”

U.S. mil­i­tary troops load bags of rice for Hur­ri­cane Matthew re­lief into a heli­copter at the air­port in Port-auPrince, Haiti, Thurs­day. The U.N. hu­man­i­tar­ian agency in Geneva has made an emer­gency ap­peal for nearly $120 mil­lion in aid, say­ing that about three-quar­ters of a mil­lion peo­ple in south­west Haiti alone will need “life-sav­ing as­sis­tance and pro­tec­tion” in the next three months.

Du­manoir Poi­son har­vests rice from his flooded field in hopes of sal­vaging a small frac­tion of his spoiled crop, near Les Cayes, Haiti, Wed­nes­day. Hur­ri­cane Matthew’s winds up­rooted co­conut trees, shat­tered ba­nana plan­ta­tions and flat­tened veg­etable fields across the south­west. In some coastal towns, flood­ing even car­ried away live­stock.

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