Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti early Tuesday with torrential rain and sustained winds of 145 mph. The hurricane—the first category 4 storm to hit Haiti in 52 years—has caused widespread flooding and damaged houses and buildings. World Vision is on the ground to help as the hurricane churns northwest toward eastern Cuba, the Bahamas, and Florida.
Within hours after Hurricane Matthew’s wind and rain subsided, World Vision staff in Haiti began distributing blankets, toiletries, and bottled water to Port-au-Prince families displaced by the storm. World Vision had pre-positioned relief supplies such as tarps, blankets, water containers, and hygiene kits to quickly assist impacted families.
On Wednesday, staff travel to La Gonâve island to conduct damage assessments and distribute relief.
“We don’t have any numbers yet, but we expect it to go well over a million to even millions of people affected by this,” World Vision’s national director for Haiti, John Hasse, said mid-day Tuesday. “We’re anticipating large amounts of damage in the south of the country. We’re seeing enormous amounts of flooding, enormous amounts of wind damage. We’ve also heard reports of churches, a hospital, and a clinic damaged. It’s lifting roofs off, because the winds are just so strong.”
After two days of rain in Port-au-Prince, the capital, trees were had fallen on houses and the river spilled over its banks, John said.
Initial plans include distributing supplies for about 15,000 families. Damage assessments will determine the long-term response that’s needed.
“Agriculture is a big concern,” John said. “It’s still growing season. We’ve heard cases of several communities losing their whole banana crops. And that wasn’t in one of the hardest hit areas –it was north of Port-au-Prince.”
World Vision was helping make good progress in areas like children’s nutrition following the drought in 2015, and 2016 had been a good year for crops.
“Now we’re scared that we’re going to see decline again because of the storm,” John said.
World Vision staff in neighboring Dominican Republic also are on alert as the storm brings up to 20 inches of rain over 48 hours to the western half of the country. Schools are closed and around 13,000 residents fled to emergency shelters to avoid possible flooding near their homes. Our staff are preparing to help where needed.
The National Hurricane Center predicted Matthew would bring 15 to 25 inches of rainfall. Areas of Haiti could get up to 40 inches, leading to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
The 80,000 inhabitants of La Gonâve island, off Haiti’s west coast, are especially vulnerable to Hurricane Matthew. World Vision assists 10,000 sponsored children and their families on La Gonâve with clean water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and nutrition.
World Vision programs in 200 rural and urban communities in Haiti serve more than 900,000 people, including 58,000 sponsored children.