Wednesday the 16th of June

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Hurricane Matthew tears through Haiti as aid workers prepare to respond

Wind-whipped rains from Hurricane Matthew shattered Haiti’s southwest peninsula, downing trees, ripping open makeshift wooden homes and causing widespread flooding on 4th October as aid workers waited for the storm to subside before mobilising.

The city of Les Cayes and coastal towns and villages in South Department were experiencing the most destruction as the storm made landfall at dawn with 145-mile-an-hour winds.

Forecasters expected Matthew to dump up to 30 inches of rain in most communities, with some locales receiving up to 40 inches.

Les Cayes and surrounding areas were the focus of concern for Catholic Relief Services. Kim Pozniak, communications manager, told Catholic News Service that the potential for landslides was high because of the geography of the region.

She said CRS staff also was troubled over the well-being of residents who decided to stay in their homes despite calls to evacuate.

“I was told by staff in Les Cayes on 3rd October that the government was going around with megaphones to alert people. But many decided to stay put to protect their homes and belongings. We’ve heard that some people did not think the storm would be as severe as predicted,” Pozniak said.

She said Chris Bessey, CRS country director, had been in contact with CRS staff in Les Cayes, despite disruptions in electrical and internet service.

“Trees were knocked down and also there was some flooding already,” she said. “We’re unable to communicate with the staff in Les Cayes because everything is down.”

The agency had positioned relief supplies, including food, sanitation and kitchen kits and emergency shelter materials in warehouses in the area, and workers were prepared to begin delivering aid once the storm moved north. Engineers were stationed in three locales and were preparing to begin assessing damage to homes and to help people with the shelter materials, Pozniak said.

Picture: People wade through a flooded street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 4th October, as Hurricane Matthew sweeps through the island nation. The city of Les Cayes and coastal towns and villages in southwestern Haiti were experiencing the most destruction as the storm made landfall at dawn with 145-mile-an-hour winds. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters).