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Haitian government calls for international assistance; Sunday's elections postponed
Published on October 6, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

On October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on southwestern Haiti as a category-4 storm -- the strongest storm to hit the Caribbean nation in more than 50 years. Just hours after landfall, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-colour image. At the time, Matthew had top sustained winds of about 145 mph. NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens

A woman crosses a muddy street in downtown Port-au-Prince after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti on 4 October 2016, bringing heavy rains and winds. Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- Following the passage of Hurricane Matthew on Tuesday, the Haitian government has appealed to the international community for immediate humanitarian assistance. In the meantime, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has announced that elections will not take place this Sunday, 9 October, and that a new date will be announced by next Wednesday at the latest, after consultation with various stakeholders.

Matthew is now the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007 and the most powerful hurricane to hit Haiti in 52 years. The hurricane made landfall near Les Anglais in southwestern Haiti at 7 am on Tuesday bringing 145 mph winds and torrential rains to the impoverished country, which continues to struggle with food insecurity, while recovering from the 2010 earthquake, with 55,000 people still living in shelters.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are mobilizing resources to aid the people of Haiti.

“Our priority is to support the governments’ interventions to save lives and meet the food needs of the most vulnerable and food insecure people affected,” said Miguel Barreto, WFP regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, who added that the agency is mobilizing its emergency staff and resources to deploy in the wake of the storm.

In addition, WFP has arranged enough food supplies to feed 300,000 people for a month. Valuable stockpiles have been allocated to primary locations, with a prompt access to remote areas if needed.

For its part, along with food supplies, UNICEF is also preparing life-saving aid for 10,000 people in Haiti.

Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, described the hurricane as “the worst storm Haiti has seen in decades.” He also expressed concerns regarding access to enough safe water and the high risk of water-borne diseases in children.

According to UNICEF, fewer than 20 percent of people in Haiti have access to proper sanitation, while almost half of the population utilizes unsafe water resources. Such unsanitary conditions and water damage might increase the number of cholera cases in the region.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has also activated its response team.

The US aircraft carrier George Washington and the amphibious transport dock Mesa Verde put to sea on Tuesday with Navy and Marine aircraft aboard and were headed to the Caribbean to provide relief from the storm if needed. The GW's air wing is composed of V-22 Ospreys (Hybrid aircraft with vertical takeoff) and MH-60 Seahawks (Multi-mission helicopters), according to sources.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort is also gearing up for a major operation, but has not yet left port. The ships have not been issued any official orders tied to Haiti's request for assistance, said Cmdr. Dave Hecht, spokesman for the Naval Air Forces, Atlantic.

"We’ve learned from experience that it’s best to load up and head to sea in advance of the storm so we are ready if needed," declared Hecht, adding "The George Washington has been on alert for roughly the past 48 hours."

Haiti’s southern peninsular, which bore the brunt of the storm, is currently cut off from the rest of the country.

"The National Road Number 2 is cut at Petit Goâve after the collapse of the bridge at La Digue," reported Edgar Célestin, spokesperson of the Haitian civil defence, adding, "A crisis meeting is underway to restore access, but finding an alternative route will not be easy."

This road is the only road linking Port-au-Prince to the southern peninsula of the country most affected by the passage of Matthew.
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