Hurricane Matthew tears through Haiti as aid workers prepare to respond

By Dennis Sadowski

(CNS) — Wind-whipped rains from Hurricane Matthew shattered Haiti’s southwest
peninsula, downing trees, ripping open makeshift wooden homes and causing
widespread flooding Oct. 4 as aid workers waited for the storm to subside
before mobilizing.

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.

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

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.

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

was told by staff in Les Cayes yesterday (Oct. 3) 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.

said Chris Bessey, CRS country
director, had last been in contact with CRS staff in Les Cayes overnight
as the storm approached and that rains and winds were intensifying before
electrical and internet service were disrupted.

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.”

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.

the hours before the storm made landfall, CRS staff had assisted Haiti’s Civil
Protection Agency by offering vehicles and fuel for use to help with
evacuation, she added.

and at least one other Catholic agency had begun accepting donations for their emergency
responses in Haiti:

Catholic Relief Services online at;
via mail to P.O. Box
17090, Baltimore, Maryland, 21297-0303 and indicate Hurricane Matthew in the
memo; or call toll-free 877-435-7277 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

Catholic Medical Mission Board online at

rains also pounded the capital of Port-au-Prince, causing some flooding in
low-lying areas, but winds were not as severe, Jacques Liautaud, Haiti manager for the church rebuilding
project known as PROCHE, told Catholic News Service Oct. 4.

seeing mostly rain and a few gusts of high winds. Otherwise, it’s been
relatively calm,” said Liautaud, who was in the country monitoring
construction projects underway to help the Catholic Church rebuild after the
country’s powerful 2010 earthquake.

city is pretty shut down today. Everybody is sheltering in place,” he said.

added that Haitian media reported that at least three people had died because
of the storm. The reports could not be immediately confirmed.

center of Matthew was expected to continue on a northward path through the Windward Passage between
Haiti and Cuba. Heavy rains were expected in eastern Cuba, and hurricane
warnings were issued for the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. Weather forecasters in the
United States were keeping an eye on the storm’s path and expected it to pass
just offshore from Florida and the southeast coast. Florida
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire state Oct. 3.

Sandy in 2012 was the most recent violent storm to strike Haiti, causing
widespread flooding in many of the same communities affected by Matthew. Sandy
also devastated Jamaica and eastern Cuba. In all, more than 70 people died in
the Caribbean from the late-season hurricane. Sandy made its way northward, taking
aim on New Jersey and New York to become the second costliest such storm in
U.S. history.

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