5th October 2016
Well this is the scene I awoke to at 5.30 this morning as hurricane Matthew continued to rage in Jean Rabel, NW Haiti. We thought we were going to escape it as the weather was all calm up to Tuesday at around 1.00 pm, although we had had rain from about 5.00 am that morning.
The wind howled and the rain poured down and we thanked our lucky stars we were fortunate to be living upstairs over the local school in the town. This meant we were unlikely to have rain coming in the doors regardless of how many inches fell.
Many were not so lucky; these children were busy trying to get rid of about 12 inches of water outside the door of their home at about 9.00 am this morning.
This tree is only one of the numerous ones that fell within close proximity to our home. This one even uprooted the concrete surrounding it in an area in front of the local priests’ home.
And this car (belonging to a local German organisation) was damaged by a falling tree while parked nearby.
Sr. Nazareth was anxious about her workshop to see how the roof held up over night. It wasn’t a pretty sight when she entered this morning. There were gallons of water that leaked in through a hole in the roof, needing to be swept outside and lots of materials needing to be dried out.
Without delay however, the stalwarts of Jean Rabel (who Sr. Rose and Sr. Nazareth have befriended over the years here in the town) were on the scene helping us to get rid of the water, and make the roof waterproof once more.
Meanwhile at the back of our house, the usual pathway to the classrooms was blocked with these falling trees (the only benefit being the crop of mangos that up to now were not ripe enough to fall from their height).
One of the classrooms was fairly damp with a good pool of water sitting on its tiled floor and Sr. Rose lost no time in setting to sweep it out. The mobile clinic’s chauffeur was on hand without delay with a mop and bucket to help with the operation.
The rain had come in under the door due to the fact that the building is built on a slope and will need work done to ensure such an occurrence won’t happen again. Thank God the new printer and computer, installed only last week, remained intact!
As we slowly got back to normal and removed as much water and leaves as possible from around the veranda of our home and from the steps downstairs, in order that no one would slip and injure themselves, we began thinking about our neighbours, knowing many of them would not have escaped as well as us from the impact of hurricane Matthew.
I went down the road and around the corner to see the river that runs through the town and usually furnishes the townspeople with water for daily survival. Two days ago this river was almost dried up and people were worrying about a shortage of water in the area.
This morning however, it flowed, furious and fast through the town – and it didn’t look very clean to my eye.
This could cause further problems as the days pass, if people cannot access clean water to drink. We were in need of some rain for the crops and a supply of water throughout the area of Jean Rabel but I’m not sure the supply we now have will be of benefit.
I’m sure the next few days will tell us the true story for many people in Jean Rabel who daily live from hand to mouth and are ill equipped to weather such catastrophes.
Many must be isolated with no food and little access to food, as fallen trees have completely blocked roadways and byways that are normally used by walkers and motor-bikers (taxis) allowing people go about their daily business.
I hate to think of the conditions of many families I regularly pass on my evening walk. Their homes are flimsy, built on the side of a hill, with little to secure them in place and a dirt track for a road or a pathway for access. These now have undoubtedly changed from sturdy, dry-earthen, dirt tracks and roadways to muddy and mucky flood paths, making access and egress next to impossible.
It’s amazing that despite the fact that movement is so difficult, the rain and the wind were so strong and heavy and roadways are blocked or turned into mud slides, regular market stall-holders still turned up today to sell their wares in the Jean Rabel Wednesday market.
To me this shows the persistence and tenacity of the Haitian people, particularly the womenfolk who are in a majority among market sellers. It will take more than hurricane Matthew to quench their spirit!