The powerful Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed the coasts of Haiti, on October 3, whipping it with 233 km per hour winds and torrential rains. As the death toll continues to rise in the poorest country in the Americas, here’s a look at what all has happened in the past week:
The precise death toll from the storm remained uncertain. The official death toll from the country’s central civil protection agency is 336, a slower count because officials must visit each village to confirm the numbers. A tally of death reported by mayors from 15 of 18 municipalities in Sud Department on the south side of the peninsula showed 386 people there. In the rest of the country, 92 people died, the same tally showed. New agency Reuters on Monday put the tally of numbers at 1,000, quoting local officials, adding that authorities had to resort to mass burials to avoid decomposition.
Devastated corners of the country are facing a public health crisis as cholera gallops through rural communities lacking clean water, food and shelter. The widespread flooding unleashed by Matthew has made the ongoing cholera outbreak, that has already killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 since 2010, in the country worse.
Reuters reported that every 10 or 15 minutes, southwest Haiti’s Port-a-Piment hospital was receiving patients with vomit-covered shoulders were being brought on motorcycles by relatives, and hoisted up the stairs seeking aide for their weak, cholera-sapped limbs. Aware of the outbreak, some areas were forced to expose themselves to water-borne diseases for they had little option except to drink the brackish water from the local well that they believed was already contaminated by dead livestock.
The Associated Press reported that at least 350,000 people are in need of assistance in the impoverished nation. Even as international relief efforts ramp up to help Haiti, desperation continues to grow among the people where aid is yet to arrive. The airstrip in Jeremie, one of the most har-hit cities, is unable to accommodate large cargo planes, so relief was being ferried to the devastated city by helicopter.
Three of nine US helicopters had arrived in Jeremie by Sunday, bringing rice and cooking oil, among other things. The Dutch government also sent a navy ship to Haiti Monday to deliver aid including food, water and shelters. But in the cut-off areas, keeping life far from normal, power is still out with water and food supplies scarce. Government teams fanned out across the hard-hit southwestern tip of the country over the weekend to repair treatment centers and reach the epicenter of one outbreak.