Reports emerged over the weekend that areas of Haiti’s southern peninsula were hit hard by Hurricane Tomas as it moved west of the country without making landfall Nov. 5.
The storm’s toll was not as great as first anticipated. Twenty people died and seven remain missing, according to Haiti’s civil protection department.
Still, 30,000 remain in shelters after 6,000 families lost their homes. Some people whose homes were destroyed in the massive Jan. 12 earthquake had their tents washed away in the most recent storm.
Many towns and villages in the far southwest sustained serious wind and flood damage. Thousands of people fled to shelters. Relief workers were making their way to isolated communities in Grand Anse and South departments. Travel was difficult due to deep mud and washed-out roads and bridges.
Camillian Father Scott Binet, international coordinator of the Servants of St. Camillus Disaster Relief Services, said in a blog posted this morning that the storm ripped off roofs from homes, left tent communities flooded and crops ruined. Carcasse was among the most devastated communities.
Catholic Relief Services and the U.N. World Food Program reported providing water, ready-to-eat meals and high-energy biscuits to more than 4,000 people who sought refuge in temporary shelters throughout the southern peninsula.
In Port-au-Prince CRS workers visited 15 camps to assess needs and found little damage in the overcrowded conditions. Assistance with clean water and sanitation was being provided.
Some 1.3 million people remain in the camps across a large part of the country 10 months after the earthquake.
Meanwhile, one crew of volunteers is planning a weeklong mission trip to Haiti beginning Nov. 13. Among their supplies is anti-malarial and cholera medications.
The trip’s leader is Brent DeLand, a member of Christ the King Parish in Springfield, Ill. His Haitian Development Fund supports a medical clinic in a poor neighborhood in Sarthe near the capital of Port-au-Prince. He told Catholic News Service pools of water left behind by the storm are prime breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Aid agencies and health workers fear that floods in the central part of the country may expand the cholera epidemic beyond the Artibonite province. The outbreak, which has claimed more than 500 lives and hospitalized 7,000 more since Oct. 19, has been contained to a fairly small area in central Haiti. Without the ability to control the water, it’s feared that bacteria-laden cholera could find its way elsewhere.