Death toll from Isaac rises in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday August 29, 2012 – As flood waters receded, leaving a sea of mud and misery, the body count from Tropical Storm Isaac rose to 19 in Haiti where officials warned the number could increase, and efforts continued to assess damage to homes and crops.
The deaths included a young woman who was crushed by a falling wall, a man who died in a camp when a tree branch fell on him, another young man who was killed by mudslides in the southeast and several killed by electrocution. A number of people were still reported missing.
Haitian and humanitarian officials were still trying to assess Isaac’s impact as the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations flew reconnaissance flights around Haiti’s capital and some of its hardest hit regions.
The southern region, where mountain hamlets remained cut off, posed an added challenge to some assessment teams trying to tally the loss of homes and crops.
“We are still collecting information,” said George Ngwa, communications chief for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, on Monday.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe who visited several hard hit communities in the capital with President Michel Martelly said the disaster has reinforced the need to increase resettlement efforts for those living in tents.
“This was a test for Haiti, and we did well,” Lamothe said. “The goal now is to fast track the rent subsidy program 16-6 to help more people.”
By Monday, it was known that at least 2,346 homes had been damaged and 335 destroyed, according to Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection.
The International Federation of the Red Cross, which conducted an assessment along Route 9 near the Port-au-Prince international airport, said 1,600 households were affected by floods from the rain and the overflowing Grise River. The numbers included both homes and shanties occupied by victims of the January 2010 earthquake.
Humanitarian partners said that a big concern was the loss of crops and the storm’s impact on the deadly cholera epidemic that has already killed more than 7,000 Haitians.
As a precautionary measure, Doctors Without Borders reopened a 275-bed Cholera Treatment Centre in Carrefour, a suburb just south of the capital.
Cholera concerns have now been joined by worry over food security as reports continued to flow about the lost of plantain, beans and other crops in storm-hit rural communities.
“We still have two months of hurricane season,” said Myrtha Kaulard, World Food Program representative in Haiti. “In rural areas, we need not to underestimate the fact that some communities are isolated because beyond the collapsed bridge there are entire households that lack all possible access.”