While the US gears up for "Frakenstorm," Leogane is recovering from Hurricane Sandy's damage from last week. Heavy rains and strong winds caused widespread flooding, blocked roads, and loss of life and property. Families evacuated with what they could carry. The damage seems to have exceeded anyone’s expectations. MINUSTAH helped GOALS reach flooded rural communities, where we distributed UNICEF hygiene kits and some bread. The need in these areas remains extremely high.
GOALS hit the road Friday morning to visit Carrefour Croix and Destra, which were hit the worst. There was water everywhere. Rivers, canals and fields that are usually bone-dry were overflowing. Flash floods are one of the main ways that people die because of storms in Haiti.
Because of Haiti’s deforestation, the water was brown, full of top soil and silt rushing down from the mountains. In Destra, the water was chalky and pale from water gushing down from the mountain’s lime quarry. Banks of stream beds and canals were crumbling due to the water’s force. More trees would help with this problem, as the roots grip the earth and help canals stay intact. But the rain and wind were too forceful for many of the trees that do exist; in some places, trees were falling, blocking the roads, and dragging down makeshift power lines.
The fields of crops on the way to Destra showed the storm’s strength. The sugar cane was flattened, fields flooded and banana trees uprooted. The water also carried away goats and other livestock that people depend on. In many places, the road was completely covered in water. We managed to make it through in pick up trucks, but the water came up high above the wheels.
Driving around Carrefour Croix, Terasonson and Destra, there was a lot to take in. A young woman used a small bucket to bail out her flooded home. A little boy caught a fish in an over-flowing stream, and held it up proudly to show off. In our case, a UN vehicle filled with Sri Lankan soldiers and GOALS’ mixed crew of Haitians and Americans only added to the spectacle.
People were grateful for the little help we could provide. Showing up to check in with people and see how they were doing seemed as important as the hygiene kits and food. We walked around to see the damage in Destra, slogging through rain and mud and getting soaked to the bone.
Amazingly, the kids at Destra struck up an impromptu “animasyon,” and led us around on the visit chanting, singing and dancing. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and I think everyone in our group was thinking about how much we need to help.
Recovering from this storm will be a long process, combining reconstruction, environmental conservation and cholera prevention projects. The work we’ve done in these areas has helped, but there’s a lot left to be done before families aren’t quite so vulnerable to natural disasters.
My favorite part of the day happened on a stretch of road on the way to Destra. It was pouring out, the entire road was badly flooded, and I wasn’t even sure if the truck could make it. But up ahead, you could spot children playing soccer on a drier piece of land. They were kicking a ball around happily, running and skidding in the mud, and getting completely soaked. It reminded me of children playing soccer amongst rubble after the 2010 earthquake here, and one of the reasons GOALS was started in the first place. It really is crazy how much children here love the game, but it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Nearly 11,000 people evacuated in Haiti. Read details on Hurricane Sandy in the UN’s short situation report
Updates and photos from the field on GOALS’ Facebook page
Get news and pictures as it’s happening in Leogane on Twitter@goalshaiti