Mandy George is one of our delegates currently based in Haiti and she has just sent this report:
There is an air of anticipation over Port-au-Prince this morning. Hurricane Tomas is just to the South West of us, currently hitting the Haitian coastline and is predicted to move north and have the worst impact on Port-au-Prince this afternoon. It’s already pouring with rain and the wind is picking up. The rain is so heavy it sounds like hail thumping the roof where the British Red Cross team is sheltering.
It’s just a waiting game now. Red Cross preparedness teams have done all they can over the past two days, furiously taking advantage of the last few hours of calm yesterday to help people prepare for the storm: lining canals with sandbags to stop flooding, clearing drains, securing tents with ropes, blasting advice from sound trucks going around the camps, emergency first aid training for dealing with the most common injuries.
We all have to been back at our apartments in ‘hibernation’ since 2pm yesterday… waiting until we can get back out there to assess the damage and help people recover from the storm. Even if we only get heavy rain in Port-au-Prince, there are still going to be a lot of people that need our assistance. We have Red Cross response teams ready to go as soon as the weather eases up, and we have enough emergency stock in country for up to 17,000 families.
I have lots of food and water and am fortunate enough to have a solid building to shelter in. But for the people in the camps – I dread to think what they are going to go through. At least we will be here to respond afterwards…
It is a strange feeling to know that a disaster is coming, in stark contrast to the earthquake that had no prior warning. It is also interesting to compare public attitude towards a disaster here in Haiti to the UK or the US. Back at home people would be madly preparing, emptying store shelves of food and water and the media would be whipping the public into even more of a frenzy.
From conversations with residents of La Piste camp yesterday, many of them do not necessarily realise the potential severity of this storm, despite being used to hurricanes. Maybe it’s just that they have already been through so much, maybe it is lack of information. That is why we have drastically stepped up our preparedness information campaign over the last 48 hours, along with practical disaster risk reduction activities. At least for this disaster we have been able to do something to prepare.
As for me, I’m trying to decide what is more scary: the ground shaking on a regular basis or the anticipation of major winds and rain as I tape up my windows with masking tape. And as for the cholera epidemic…