As Hurricane Season Begins, Inadequate Preparation Could Lead to Another Catastrophe
Today is the official beginning of the Hurricane season in the Caribbean, and there are a number of stories from over the weekend warning of another serious catastrophe given the conditions on the ground in Haiti. As we pointed out last week, experts are forecasting an above average hurricane season, with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting up to 23 named tropical storms. AP reminds us that "Tropical Storm Jeanne killed nearly 3,000 people in 2004, and a series of 2008 storms killed 800 — mostly in the country's central region north of Port-au-Prince." Both the AP and the Miami Herald point out that only a very small portion of the displaced have been relocated from flood prone areas. From the AP:
Dr. Jean Pape, one of the country's most prominent public health experts, estimates that only 1 percent of the masses stuck in dangerous flood zones have been relocated.
There is also a severe lack of transitional, hurricane resistant housing. This will leave over a million Haitians stuck in inadequate "tarps or fraying tents" during the hurricane season. From the Miami Herald:
"When we first started this operation . . . we hoped that we would be able to build a significant number of transitional shelters by the start of the hurricane season," said Alex Wynter of the International Federation of Red Cross. "We've made up our minds that we are going to have to face the emergency or the potential emergency of the rainy season and the hurricane season in the camps."
However, facing the upcoming hurricane season in these makeshift camps could be catastrophic, as the AP reports:
The problem goes beyond more misery in about 1,200 temporary camps. Vast numbers of people are exposed to disease-carrying mosquitoes. Serious flooding could cause mass casualties even with thousands of aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers present.
The Herald reports that many more camps could be at risk from flooding than originally estimated:
Initially, the U.S. military designated nine camps, including the Petionville Golf Club, as priorities because some 29,000 people in them were considered most at risk of being washed away with flash floods and landslides.
Since then, the International Organization for Migration has determined that engineers must inspect 120 camps in Port-au-Prince because of concerns about flooding, landslides or standing water from heavy rains. The inspections will determine the measures needed to reinforce the camps, said Shuan Scales, the agency's camp planner.