Storm Grace brought torrential rains and flooding in the early hours of Tuesday (17) to the Cayes region on the south coast of Haiti. One of the most affected points in the city, 200 km from the capital, Port-au-Prince, was a complex of tents, many with children and babies, erected to house families displaced by the earthquake in last Saturday (14).
This Tuesday morning, as the storm moved away towards Jamaica and left only a fine rain in Haiti, more than 100 people moved in the camp to repair the makeshift blankets, made of wooden poles and tarpaulins.
The storm was expected with great apprehension, as Haiti still counts the damage from the earthquake, which killed at least 1,941 people, according to preliminary figures released on Tuesday. Les Cayes was one of the most impacted cities.
In Jacmel, 92 km from the capital, waters flooded the streets of the coastal town, as shown in a video posted by Deus Deronneth, a local politician. “Once again, Peredo and Marigot were inundated,” he wrote.
Heavy rains affected the arrival of aid for hundreds of thousands of people in search of food, water or shelter. “Currently, around half a million Haitian children have no or limited access to shelter, clean water, health care and nutrition,” said Bruno Maes, representative. from UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).
The storm also compromised the search for earthquake victims, although hopes of locating significant numbers of survivors were already extinguished when the rains hit Les Cayes.
“Countless Haitian families who lost everything in the earthquake are now literally living with their feet in the water because of the floods,” said Maes.
There were those who sought temporary shelter in the garages of houses, such as Vital Jaenkendy, whose building he lived in collapsed. He told Reuters he was sleeping next to neighbors under a tarp on a road near the remains of the building, where he planned to return after Grace passed.
Jaenkendy’s house is one of 37,000 destroyed in the earthquake, according to the country’s authorities. As many are still in ruins, the death toll is expected to rise, but it is not expected to reach 200,000 visas in 2010.
Property damage is also counted at large hospitals, hampering humanitarian efforts, as well as at focal points in many communities such as churches and schools.
USAID (United States Agency for International Development) said it resumed search operations on Tuesday morning, after suspending them overnight, and that it was working with international partners to increase aid. Even though expectations are low, rescue teams still carry out searches, accompanied by locals, amid the smell of dust and rotting bodies.
In hospitals, where more than 9,900 wounded are now treated, the situation is chaotic. Outside, the patients occupy makeshift tents; inside, they are on stretchers strewn in the hallways or on narrow beds in crowded rooms.
Added to this is the lack of health professionals and supplies. “We have about 34 children in hospital now, but we still need more help from the pediatricians. SOS [sigla para socorro]», Wrote Marie Cherry, doctor at the general hospital of Les Cayes, in an SMS sent to Reuters. Pediatrician Lucette Gedeon, who works as a volunteer in the makeshift neonatal ward, told the news agency that antibiotics and anesthetics have run out.
Among those served outside was Marceline Charles’ month-old baby, hit by a brick when her house collapsed. The debris also caused a deep cut to the head of her 7-year-old daughter. “I don’t know if she will survive,” he said.
Sometimes care does not arrive on time, as in the case of Lanette Nuel’s 26-year-old daughter. “There weren’t enough doctors and now she is dead,” he said, standing in front of Les Cayes hospital, next to the body covered with a white sheet.
Mathieu Jameson, deputy head of the committee formed by those who took refuge in the tents in Les Cayes, said hundreds of people were in urgent need of food, shelter and medical assistance. “We don’t have a doctor. We have no food. We have no bathroom, no place to sleep. We need food, more umbrellas, ”he said, adding that the resort was still awaiting help from the government.
The country’s Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, has pledged more humanitarian aid than in 2010. Although billions of dollars in aid were provided to Haiti after the earthquake and Hurricane Matthew (in 2016), many Haitians say they have seen little direct benefit due to uncoordinated efforts – government agencies have remained weak and food and basic shortages have persisted.
The recent climatic tragedies also hit a country plunged into a political crisis accentuated by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7. Access to Les Cayes, for example, was already complicated, with gangs controlling the country’s major roads.
Despite the country’s situation, the United States has said it has no plans to send military personnel, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. On Tuesday, he said it was too early to measure the impact of the earthquake on the Haitian political process.
Concerns about Storm Grace now turn to Jamaica, which has already seen strong gusts and rain-streaked roads, and Mexico, where it is expected to become a hurricane on Thursday (19), according to the US National Hurricane Center.