Disasters & Accidents

T.S. Grace giving southern Haiti no breathing room 3 days after quake

By Maria Montecelos

Les Cayes, Haiti, Aug 17 (EFE).- Tropical Storm Grace is giving no breathing room to southern Haiti on Tuesday, three days after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked that part of the country and where rescue work is continuing amid the heavy rain that is complicating the situation of thousands of people made homeless by the temblor.

The rain dumped by the storm was intense all night long but has lightened up a bit during the day, although some 136,800 families are being directly affected by it since their homes were destroyed or heavily damaged – many with their roofs collapsed – by the quake.

With at least 1,941 people killed and some 9,900 injured, the quake is the second-deadliest temblor to strike Latin America in the past 25 years, with the worst one also hitting Haiti in 2010 and possibly killing more than 300,000 people.

In the district of Brefet in the city of Les Cayes, members of the Civil Protection agency, firefighters and security forces are participating in efforts to remove the rubble from a collapsed apartment building where 16 people have been extracted alive from the ruins, according to Civil Protection.

Nine bodies were also recovered from the ruins of a three-story, 48-apartment building, one of the residents, Pierre Sena, said.

The man said that bodies still remain under the rubble and over the past couple of days “cries were heard” coming from amid the ruins, but now nothing is being heard any longer and “it seems that they have died.”

Meanwhile, in downtown Les Cayes, near the General Hospital, hundreds of people are being sheltered in one of the various camps established for people who have lost their homes and their belongings.

They spent the night there, during which the rain from Grace never stopped falling, complicating the situation of people who are terrified of aftershocks, which continue to be felt in the city.

A few kilometers from Les Cayes, in Camp Perrin, where small groups of people are staying alongside the highway, many families have been remaining near the ruins of their homes, protected only from the rain by awnings set up with blankets and sticks.

There, EFE found Alcide Ginette, who lost her 15-year-old son Alexi in the quake.

When she felt the ground began to shake, she tried to get back into the house – where five people lived – but it fell down on top of her, she said.

They still have a small little house in which they have taken shelter, very close to the family of Jean Wiliome Cherestal, whose six family members have decided to remain in the hole they still consider habitable, between their home’s zinc roof and the ground, where they’ve placed mattresses and have gathered lumber to burn.

Every few meters there is a similar family with a similar story, including the one of Elianne Dey.

Her mother suffered a broken arm and leg in the quake because one of the walls of their house fell on her, and even though the house was completely destroyed they don’t want to leave the site.

Haitian authorities estimate that 40 percent of the population of the southwestern region, about 684,400 people in all, urgently need humanitarian aid, given that many of them no longer have roofs over their heads or the ability to get food or water.

Calculations by UNICEF are even more alarming, with the international entity waring on Tuesday that 1.2 million people, including some 540,000 children, have limited or no access to shelter, potable water, medical attention or food.

The earthquake is making the situation in Haiti – where 4.4 million people were already suffering from food insecurity, according to the United Nations – even worse.


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