Hurricane Matthew has moved on and Haiti is left to recover from the latest national catastrophe.
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area
October 6, 2016 — Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, hit Haiti on Tuesday, October 4. With winds up to 145 miles an hour, it was the strongest hurricane to strike the country in more than 50 years.
By Thursday, as Matthew bore down on the U.S., the death toll in Haiti was reported to be above 100 with thousands displaced. Official reports of the scope of the devastation began to emerge from government and church sources. Winds damaged homes, uprooted trees, downed power lines and interrupted the supply of clean water. Torrential rain caused flooding that tore out bridges, destroyed roads and produced landslides. The southwestern part of the country has been hardest hit. By Friday Reuters was reporting the death toll as over 800 with tens of thousands homeless.
The United Methodist Church in Michigan has had a covenant relationship with the Methodist Church in Haiti since 1996. Over the past 20 years districts of the West Michigan and Detroit conferences have established partnerships with communities across that country. Since the storm hit on Tuesday, members and friends of the Michigan Haiti Task Force have used Facebook to provide reports of damage to property, landscape and lives of those held dear.
The following captures the most recent of these reports citing the sources. Updates will be added as they become available. The Michigan Area has called for prayer and is currently in an assessment phase before announcing an appeal for disaster response.
In the meantime, the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s country office staff in Haiti is monitoring and evaluating needs in Matthew’s aftermath. The Rev. Jack Amick, UMCOR’s Senior Director of Disaster Response, said, “After the hurricane moves through the area, UMCOR will consult with our partners to explore strategies for responding to this disaster.” UMCOR Advance Special Number 982450 will support relief efforts for Hurricane Matthew.
October 8 Michael Capponi, Global Empowerment Mission, on their Recon Mission in Haiti (shared by Don Gotham). He begins: We wanted to go from Jeremie to Les Anglais where there is even more catastrophic destruction but that was absolutely impossible. The next attempt was getting to Dame-Marie. That is also absolutely impossible. The roads are knee to waist high deep muddy swamps at every corner. There are large broken trees every 20 ft. With the help of a large Caterpillar and a crew of 6, they cleared approximately a few miles of road all day. At that rate, we anticipate it may take weeks before the roads are minimally operational again. 3. We were the first and only responders to some of these remote villages outside of Jeremie. There it’s not 1 out of 3 homes destroyed but 3 out of 3 homes destroyed. Many homes had so much debris in them that we would have no way of knowing how many dead people were trapped under the fallen roofs etc. To view the entire report and photo gallery click here.
October 7 Karl Zeigler, member Michigan Area Haiti Task Force: Just received this text message from Rubin Dijon. “The Methodist Church Gomier and Roseaux are destroyed.” These were the most substantial buildings in each village.
October 6 Don Gotham, former chair of the Michigan Area Haiti Task Force, shares: Estimates of loss of housing are in the 80-90% range in southwest Haiti and closer to 99% percent in the Jeremie area. Along with loss of structures, the residents have lost their gardens. The loss of crops, coupled with a bridge swept away in the Petit Goave area have cut the region off from any aid which could be brought from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Cell phone companies are working to restore service, but can only reach towers via helicopter; in some places landing isn’t possible. Cholera and a lack of food are urgent concerns.
October 6 Brulan Jean-Michel, EMH Guest House Manager, Pe’tion-Ville, Haiti (courtesy Karl Zeigler): It is a very difficult situation to deal with due to the fact that we have not completely recovered from the devastation caused by the earthquake of 2010. I sometimes find myself asking why Haiti again? We, however, want to let you know that the worst is now over. The red alert imposed by the government has been lifted. The rain has stopped and the wind is much less. At the Methodist Campus at Freres, we are doing ok. We have just had a few branches down. Much of Port-au-Prince is flooded but the water is receding by the hour. Unfortunately, the situation in the southern peninsula is much worse. The eye of the hurricane went directly over Jeremie and the surrounding cities. There is significant flooding, landslides, trees down, roads destroyed and 95% of the houses have lost their roofs. There is no phone communication and a major bridge in Petit-Goave has been washed away cutting the whole southern peninsula off from Port-au-Prince. Due to the vigilance of the authorities a lot of people have been sheltered. So far they are talking about two lives lost. One life is too many to lose but it could have been much, much worse.
October 5 Michael Broyles shares a report from Mission Aviation Fellowship: I just returned from a six-hour evaluation of the entire south coast of Haiti from Jacmel West, around the point at Dame Marie, and then north coast back to Port-au-Prince. From Zanglais west is bad. The worst of the devastation is Port Salut West to Dame Marie. Barely 1% of houses standing in Jeremie, close behind is Cayes. Decimated in each area. The people are alive…they survived. But they’re cut off and soon will starve. Lots of work to be done. A major long-term concern is the complete loss of gardens in these areas. Food is already scarce. It’s really bad. We received a report from Medishare and Sow a Seed. Ile a Vache needs immediate care.
October 5 Valerie Mossman-Celestin’s report of Mizak, Haiti: Mario Damis, IT specialist for Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI), lost his home during the night and the family is now housed at Merlet Center. The roof of Mizak National School is a total loss. School cannot resume until it is replaced. They are waiting on a visit from the mayor. Not all HAPI employees have been reached but most reporting roof damage. Many households lost portions of their tin roofs. Residents are grateful to see the sun today! The physical damage is the ‘tip’ of the iceberg, The economic impact to purchase food, pay tuition, repair homes and seek medical attention is what will be felt for months to come. We are in conversation about crisis intervention measures which will be shared soon. It’s a major economic loss in our community because the hurricane wiped out the second planting season and probably killed a lot of livestock. There will be a big surge in illnesses and injuries (people and motor bikes slip in the mud).
October 5 Sharon Harbottle reporting from Pe’tion-Ville, Haiti (courtesy Karl Zeigler): We are now past the worst of the hurricane and have been very fortunate on the Methodist Compound here in Pétion-Ville. The compound was sheltered from the worst of the wind and although there has been very heavy rain we had the roof leaking slightly in only one room. Some branches have come down, but everyone here is safe. We have had no electricity for two days and our inverter has almost run out now, but we anticipate that the offices will reopen tomorrow, and we will then be able to find out what information others have about the situation. Many areas of Port-au-Prince however have suffered worse, there is extensive flooding and the water pouring out of the mountains is likely to continue to increase for a day or two yet as it is still raining. Roofs have been blown off many homes and many people are in refuge centers. The situation where the center of the hurricane made landfall, a little to the west of Les Cayes, is much worse. A few reports have been received from there indicating the town has had significant flooding, damage to buildings and trees are down.
Rev. Don Gotham adds, “We ask each church in the Michigan Area to spend time interceding in prayer for our covenant partners in Haiti and for all affected by hurricane Matthew.”