Matthew, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 140
mph, slammed into Haiti’s southern peninsula in the
early morning hours of Tue., Oct. 4, leaving a swath of
ripped off roofs, stripped trees, raging rivers, and
The storm dumped over two feet of rain water on
Haiti in the space of 24 hours.
At press time, the storm-caused death toll in
Haiti was only three, although officials expect it to
rise as reports from remote and flooding-isolated
regions come in.
In the southern coastal town of Port Salut, over
which the eye of the hurricane passed, a 26-year-old man
drowned trying to rescue a child who fell into a
rain-swollen river, according to the Associated Press.
The child was saved.
Reuters reported that another man in Port Salut,
too sick to leave his home, died when water flooded it.
Haiti’s first casualty was a fisherman who was
lost in heavy seas on Sep. 30, as the storm approached
from the south. His body has been recovered.
Matthew has also killed four in the Dominican
Republic, one in Colombia, and one in St. Vincent.
The cities of Les Cayes and Jérémie, between
which the storm passed, were both severely flooded.
The picturesque white-sand beach of Port Salut,
which has drawn much tourist development in recent
years, was severely damaged and washed away, according
to preliminary reports.
High winds and rain from the outer bands of the
massive storm also lashed Port-au-Prince and Haiti’s
north as the storm barreled into Cuba’s eastern tip
later in the day on Oct. 4.
Most Haitians expect that the long-awaited
presidential and legislative elections scheduled for
Sun., Oct. 9 will have to be postponed as the Haitian
government struggles with bringing relief to hurricane
victims and repairing damaged infrastructure. The
Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said on Tuesday that
the elections would go forward as scheduled, but
“temporarily suspended” electoral activities.
The Ladigue bridge on Route National #2 in Petit
Goâve was washed out by a swollen river, cutting off
access to the hard-hit southern peninsula.
The U.S. Navy is sending an aircraft carrier, the
USS George Washington, and an amphibious transport dock,
the Mesa Verde, to assist in disaster relief, according
the Navy Times. This
comes at Haiti’s request, according to a U.S. Agency for
International Development spokesman.
“U.S. Southern Command has also redeployed nine
Marine helicopters and 100 personnel from Honduras to
Grand Cayman to prepare for relief operations, according
to a SOUTHCOM release,” the Navy Times wrote.
The low death toll may be due to the fact that
the Haitian government mobilized its very limited
resources to be able to relocate over 18,000 people to
672 shelters – mostly schools and government buildings.
In a press conference by President Jocelerme
Privert just hours before the storm hit, the government
announced that it was distributing “hot meals, 1,250
blankets, and drinking water in Jérémie. Already 2,758
people have been evacuated, including 937 in the
Grand-Anse department, 613 in Nippes, 739 in the South,
and 319 in the Southeast department.”
The government also announced that it had
“already mobilized several thousand gallons of gasoline
for vehicle service, [a] radio communication system ...
for the departments of Grand Anse and the South, and the
Haitian Red Cross” while “eight out of ten hospitals are
On Oct. 3, Haiti’s Culture and Communication
Ministry also blasted “cybercriminals [who] are trying
to take advantage of the special situation caused by
Hurricane Matthew’s passage across Haiti to create panic
and confusion, by circulating on social networks,
various erroneous or fabricated information.” Some
Tweets and Facebook postings had given false accounts of
terrible destruction and death tolls.
The speed with which Hurricane Matthew became a
Category 4 storm surprised many meteorologists, leading
many to attribute its rapid growth to global warming.
In her recent book entitled “We
Have Dared to Be Free: Haiti's Struggle Against
Occupation,” Haitian scientist turned author Dady
Chery wrote the following:
“Scientific projections have made clear that
during the next 25 years or so, global warming will
generate increasingly more catastrophic weather events
that will result in the destruction of most of the
world’s port cities and disappearance of many islands.
Fires, floods, droughts, erosion of top soil, reduced
landmass, decreased ocean salinities, loss of glacier
water, and massive animal die offs, will put tremendous
pressure on human populations. It is not a matter of if,
but when, a hurricane as strong or stronger than typhoon
Haiyan will hit the Gulf of Mexico and all of its oil
rigs. This one-two punch of climate change and human
technology will make the Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills
look like mere puddles. The relentless auto-cannibalism
of global corporatism will seize future disasters as
opportunities for repression, exploitation, destruction
of national sovereignty, and the creation of safe havens
for the mega-rich under the protection of their private
armies. Supranational armies such as the UN peacekeepers
and supranational agreements like the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) are meant to serve as corporate tools
to unravel national and cultural specificity for the new
Dr. Chery’s thoughts are important to ponder as Haiti
wrestles with yet another natural disaster.