Haiti: Infrastructure Damage Impedes Aid


Still recovering from the devastating earthquake that struck six years ago, the Republic of Haiti was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew last week, in terms of infrastructure and housing destruction, and especially the loss of human life, according to numerous reports.

The powerful Category Four storm traveled ashore Tuesday (Oct. 4) over the Caribbean nation. The country is located on the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.

The death toll from Matthew had reached at least 400 as of Friday (Oct. 7), according to southern Haiti Senator Herve Fourcand, the BBC reported, noting that number is expected to climb as rescuers reach some of the hardest-hit areas along southeastern Haiti. Communication to and from those areas had been cut off.

Friday afternoon, Reuters reports put that number at 842 fatalities, based on tallies given by officials as information began to come in from those remote areas cut off by the storm; however, those figures have not been confirmed.

It could take up to five days to get a more concrete picture of the scope of the disaster, according to Carlos Veloso, the World Food Programme's director in Haiti.

Four fatalities were reported in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday.

Structures, Infrastructure Damage

In areas that were accessible after the storm swept through, thousands of properties were damaged by the storm’s powerful winds (up to 145 mph) and storm surge (up to 24-foot waves). Torrential rain flooded coastal towns, washing away bridges and roads, the Associated Press reported.

"It's the worst hurricane that I've seen during my life," Fidele Nicolas, a civil protection official in Nippes, told the Associated Press. "It destroyed schools, roads, other structures."

Civil aviation authorities reportedly counted as many as 3,214 homes destroyed along the southern peninsula. Many families in that area lived in shacks with sheet metal roofs and many did not have the means to escape harm’s way, reports said.

Damage to the country's roads and bridges hindered rescue and evacuation efforts, and is expected to impede efforts to deliver aid.

A signifcant bridge connecting the southern peninsula, which suffered the worst damage, to Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital, was destroyed Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

A damaged bridge that spans the Rivière la Digue in Petit-Goâve was repaired and became partially passable, though it was still not considered able to handle for large-scale aid deliveries, CNN reported.

Roads remain too blocked by fallen trees and debris to accommodate travel to deliver aid, and relief agencies are considering air dropping supplies instead.

Ines Brill, the Haiti representative for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told the news agency that Haiti had only just begun the "development" phase to begin rebuilding infrastructure following the 2010 earthquake.

"This is an emergency after an emergency, which makes things more complex than a typical disaster," she said.

Help on the Way

Government officials say at least 350,000 people are in need of some kind of assistance following the disaster, which is being described as one of the country’s worst humanitarian crisis since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit in January 2010.

At the request of Haitian officials, U.S, military personnel are expected to deliver food and water to hard-hit areas with nine helicopters and ships in the coming days. Other international aid has also been deployed.

Cuba Destruction

Before slamming Haiti, Matthew wreaked havoc in nearby Cuba, destroying dozens of homes and damaging hundreds on the island’s easternmost city of Baracoa, according to reports.

In Baracoa, reports say a large shipping container was washed three blocks inland from the storm surge.

U.N. officials said strong measures were taken to protect infrastructure and communities in Cuba.

In the Path

The storm hit the Bahamas Thursday (Oct. 6), where no fatalities were reported, and continued on a path forecast to reach the U.S., where mandatory evacuations were being issued in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

As of Friday afternoon, the storm was 70 miles southeast of Jacksonville, and had been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane.

Florida was subjected to high winds and heavy rains, but the storm was now projected to run parallel to the shore over the next two days and still had the potential to produce devastating storm surges and flooding, ABC News said.

In preparation for the storm, residents and business owners had boarded windows with plywood and placed sandbags.

Contractors working on large projects throughout the region were racing to secure crane booms and other equipment in preparation for the storm.

"We put our hurricane plans in our project plans," MacAdam Glinn, who heads Skanska USA in South Florida, told the Miami Herald. Glinn oversees projects including the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, which is currently under construction.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a dire warning Thursday morning to the some 1.5 million people living in evacuated areas.

“This storm will kill you. Time is running out. We don’t have much time left.”


Tagged categories: Access; Asia Pacific; Bridges; Community service; Disasters; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Latin America; North America; Rebuilding; Residential Construction; Roads/Highways

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