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Caribbean continues to suffer during hurricane season


Hurricane Ike battered Haiti and Cuba September 8 and 9, causing more damage in the Caribbean to which Episcopal Relief and Development and other Episcopalians are trying to respond.

Ike killed four people on Cuba September 8 and forced at least one million others to flee, the New York Times reported.

The storm made landfall in Cuba late on September 7, the Times reported, with Category 3 winds of 111 miles an hour and greater. It raked the island on September 8, turned slightly out to sea and made a second landfall in western Cuba on the morning of September 9 in the extreme southeastern part of Pinar del Rio province, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Before striking Cuba, Ike rampaged over Haiti, killing at least 58 people, according to news reports.

Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were already reeling from the death and destruction caused by Gustav September 1. The island of Hispaniola had already been struck by tropical storms Fay and Hanna.

“The situation in Haiti is devastating,” Matthew St. John, program officer for Latin America and the Caribbean at Episcopal Relief and Development, said in a news release September 9.

Haiti’s deforested mountainsides present no resistance to mudslides and flooding, increasing the degree of destruction, ERD said. Bridges, roads and houses have been washed away, trees uprooted and crops decimated. “The situation is dire,” ERD said.

“We are seeking additional funds to prevent a humanitarian crisis from occurring in the country,” continued St. John. “Please hold the people of Haiti in your prayers.”

The triple storm combination has claimed the lives of 500 people in flooded Gonaives, with officials fearing that this number will be revised upward, ERD said in its release. “In that city alone, over 250,000 are without shelter, food and water. Across the country there are 800,000 people, roughly 10 percent of the population, in severe need of aid.”

ERD said that while most of Haiti was hit, the three most affected regions are Gonaives, the Department of South-East and the Department of Nippes.

In response to Hurricane Gustav, ERD said it is partnering with the Diocese of Haiti’s development office to deliver aid to more than 1,000 people in the southern part of the country. ERD is also providing aid in the northern part of the country to affected populations in response to Hanna and Ike. Development office staff are on site in the affected areas networking with local priests to deliver food, medical supplies, clothing and seeds, ERD said.

At 2:00 p.m. September 9 the center of Ike was 65 miles southwest of Havana, according to NOAA’s public advisory. Ike is expected to drop six to 12 inches of rain over western and central Cuba, with up to 20 inches possible in some places. “These rains are likely to cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides over mountainous terrain,” NOAA’s advisory said.

“We were badly beaten from Holguin to Ciego de Avila by Ike,” the Rev. Juan Antonio Gonzalez of Camaguey in Cuba wrote September 8 in an email to Julia Sullivan, chair of the Diocese of Florida’s companion diocese committee with Cuba.

The Associated Press reported that on the narrow streets of Camaguey, falling utility poles crushed cars and wind toppled stone and brick buildings. “Colonial columns were toppled and the ornate sculptures on the roofs of centuries-old buildings were smashed in the central Cuban city, a UNESCO world heritage site,” the AP said.

According to NOAA forecasters, Ike was generating large swells at sea that can create massive waves and life-threatening rip currents in the Florida Keys. They said isolated tornadoes and waterspouts could crop up over the Keys and other parts of south Florida throughout the 9th.

Ike, a Category 1 storm, was moving west-northwest at about 12 miles per hour. NOAA said the storm could strengthen when it emerges over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico later September 9. NOAA’s projected path placed a possible landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas, on the morning of September 13.


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