Caribbean, Dominican Republic, Haiti - Hurricane Georges Fact Sheet #9

Report
from US Agency for International Development
Published on 08 Oct 1998
Note: Future Hurricane Georges fact sheets may be released on a periodic basis, as additional information on continuing relief initiatives becomes available.

Summary

BHR/OFDA assessment activities have ended in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the eastern Caribbean, and recommendations have been reviewed for additional disaster assistance. Further USG response is not expected in the eastern Caribbean; however, other lifesaving relief interventions or disaster mitigation activities may be funded in Haiti and the Dominican Republic - contingent upon ongoing assessment efforts that are being conducted by the respective U.S. Embassies. The USAID Missions in Santo Domingo and Port Au Prince will assume responsibility for monitoring and ensuring the effectiveness of any new BHR/OFDA initiatives.

In the long-term, BHR/OFDA will work through a pre-existing $4.2 million relationship with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Relief Agency (CDERA) to strengthen regional capacity to mitigate the effects of future disasters. Vulnerability reduction will be achieved through the introduction of appropriate building standards and codes, mitigation policy, city planning, and hazard mapping. In addition, a USG inter-agency task force has been established to address reconstruction needs within the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The U.S. Embassies and USAID Missions in both countries will work closely with the task force to develop and implement a recovery plan that focuses on the rehabilitation of building structures, roadways and bridges, public utilities, and the agricultural sector.

Background

Hurricane Georges struck the eastern Caribbean (St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda) on September 20 and 21 and the Dominican Republic and Haiti on September 22. The storm resulted in infrastructure damage and loss of life throughout the region, particularly in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Of all eastern Caribbean islands that incurred damage as a result of the hurricane, St. Kitts was the most affected. The extent of damage throughout the region indicates that it could be several months (or years, for the most affected countries) before life returns to a completely normal state.

On September 23, BHR/OFDA received disaster declarations from all four affected nations. In response, BHR/OFDA deployed assessment teams throughout the region and followed up with targeted disaster assistance. A summary of damages for each country and of BHR/OFDA assistance to date is provided below.

Dominican Republic

Reports of hurricane-related damages in the Dominican Republic continue to vary. Figures from the Dominican State Secretary's Public Health and Welfare Office indicate 208 deaths and 134,836 displaced persons in the Dominican Republic. However, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reports 865,510 displaced and 400,000 homeless persons, and the American Red Cross reports 2,000 missing persons and 300 deaths. The death toll is almost certain to rise because many unregistered migrant workers are missing after being swept away by flood waters and mudslides. The areas hardest hit by the hurricane include La Romana, San Juan de la Maguana, and San Cristobal. While the greatest wind damage to housing is in the coastal areas of Santo Domingo and to the east, most flood damage to homes is in the south and west. Critical shortages of food, water, and shelter have resulted in poor urban neighborhoods and rural areas throughout the country in the aftermath of the storm. According to the American Red Cross, most shelters in these affected areas are overcrowded, low on potable water, and in need of proper sanitation. As a result, malaria, cholera, dengue, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, and acute respiratory infections are potential health problems. Infrastructure damage includes schools, hospitals, health clinics, homes, the main airport, and municipal water systems. In addition, approximately 100% of the road network and 60% of the bridges are damaged, hampering the ability of relief workers to assess damage and carry out relief operations. The storm has curtailed the supply of electricity and availability of phone services throughout the country. Official estimates indicate that total damage to the power system is $1.2 billion, and that service will not return to full capacity for at least two months. The Dominican Secretary of Agriculture conservatively estimates $260 million worth of damage or 90% destruction to the agricultural sector. This figure includes loss of crops, poultry, small ruminants, and pasture and grain crops for large animals. Future crop production is not expected for four months. According to the Dominican Tourism Association, only 5-10% of the country's tourism facilities are damaged.

Following the U.S. Ambassador's disaster declaration, BHR/OFDA immediately provided $25,000 to the U.S. Embassy for the purchase of chainsaws, emergency construction materials, and water purification supplies. From September 25-26, BHR/OFDA delivered 410 rolls of plastic sheeting, 100 body bags, 2,000 five-gallon water jugs, 10 water bladders, and 24 chainsaws by chartered aircraft. A six-person BHR/OFDA assessment team also arrived in Santo Domingo on September 25, joined by two additional disaster specialists on October 2. The assessment team conducted a damage survey, reviewed current needs, oversaw BHR/OFDA response, and trained local citizens on the use of plastic sheeting. Based upon specific recommendations from the assessment team, another 100 rolls of BHR/OFDA plastic sheeting were delivered to Santo Domingo on September 27 via U.S. military aircraft. BHR/OFDA also funded the deployment of six U.S. military helicopters (at a cost of $1.2 million) to assist with the delivery of relief supplies and to conduct overflight assessments for a two week duration. On September 29, BHR/OFDA contributed $300,000 to PAHO's appeal for emergency assistance to the Dominican Republic and transferred $40,000 to the USAID Mission to support a U.S. Peace Corps program to deliver 21,000 bags of pre-packaged food to hurricane victims. On October 5, BHR/OFDA transferred $260,000 to the U.S. Embassy for the purchase of 100 plastic 500-gallon water tanks, 10 generators to power small municipal water pumps, and seeds for replanting in the southwestern part of the country.

USAID Administrator Brian Atwood headed a VIP delegation to the Dominican Republic and Haiti on September 30 to review USG relief efforts and to survey the extent of hurricane-related damage. While in Santo Domingo, the Administrator announced that the USG is prepared to provide a total of $35 million in humanitarian and food assistance to the Dominican Republic in response to damage sustained by Hurricane Georges. This figure includes assistance already provided, plus an additional $32 million: $10 million from USAID for Title II humanitarian food aid, $10 million from USDA for the purchase of 100,000 metric tons of wheat, and $12 million for the promotion of economic ties with U.S. agricultural producers. The profits from the USDA wheat sales will be used to advance the U.S. Embassy's long-term recovery plan.

Haiti

The Haitian Civil Protection Directorate reports 147 deaths, 34 serious injuries, 40 missing persons, and 167,500 affected individuals as a result of the hurricane. The number of homeless people stands at 4,500, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. As in the Dominican Republic, flash flooding and high storm winds are accountable for most of the destruction and damage to the housing stock. Electricity and phone lines are currently being restored throughout the country. The immediate hurricane-related concerns are the provision of short-term relief assistance to displaced persons and the high degree of flooding in the Artibonite Valley. Three-fourths of the September rice crop was lost due to flooding in the Artibonite Valley, and this month's rice-planting season (which accounts for 60% of Haiti's annual rice production) is unlikely to take place. The total loss to the agricultural sector is approximately $179 million. This figure includes crop and livestock loss and damage to the irrigation system.

In response to the U.S. ambassador's disaster declaration, BHR/OFDA immediately provided $25,000 to the U.S. Embassy for 1) the supply of potable water to hurricane victims in Port Au Prince, Cap-Haitien, and Leogane; and 2) aerial survey of the most affected areas. A BHR/OFDA regional advisor arrived in Haiti on September 25 to assist with assessment efforts and to coordinate BHR/OFDA response. Based on the specific recommendations of this advisor, BHR/OFDA delivered 200 rolls of plastic sheeting, 1,000 five-gallon water jugs, and 5,000 polyester blankets on September 28 and 29. In addition, BHR/OFDA contributed $300,000 to PAHO's appeal for emergency assistance to Haiti. USAID Administrator Brian Atwood announced in Port Au Prince on September 30 that the USG is prepared to provide an additional $12 million in food aid assistance and relief supplies to hurricane victims in Haiti.

Eastern Caribbean

St. Kitts and Nevis: There are five hurricane-related deaths in St. Kitts and Nevis. On both islands, the supply of electricity and water is curtailed and phone services are hampered as a result of the storm. According to a preliminary damage assessment conducted by the St. Kitts National Emergency Management Agency, total damage equals $445 million. The northern and western areas of the island are most damaged, but the southern tip (a major tourist site) is in need of some repair. The tourist industry in St. Kitts is also affected by the destruction of the main pier and berthing platform in Bassterre and the damage of several major hotels. Because St. Kitts relies on its tourist industry for much of its national income, the economic effects of the hurricane will be more significant than initial damage assessments indicate. The loss of 50% of the 1999 sugar harvest will also negatively impact the island's economy. Twenty-five percent of the homes on St. Kitts are destroyed, temporarily displacing 2,500 people (many of whom are seeking refuge with friends and relatives). Other infrastructure damage in St. Kitts includes roofing loss to 60% of the housing stock and to many schools, lifeline facilities, commercial businesses, and public buildings. The airport is 25% damaged - with repair work needed on the main terminal and control tower. Press sources report a total of $39 million worth of damage in Nevis as a result of Hurricane Georges. The National Disaster Coordinator in Nevis indicates $1 million worth of damage to the electrical system and $2.5 million worth of damage to the agricultural sector. Damage to dwellings is less severe in Nevis than in St. Kitts. No homes are destroyed and only 30-40 (10-15%) have minor damage to roofing. Several schools and hotels in Nevis are also damaged, and many beaches are eroded.

Antigua and Barbuda: Hurricane Georges is responsible for three deaths and two serious injuries in Antigua and Barbuda. According to the local government, a total of 3,338 people are homeless on the two islands, 1,762 homes are damaged, and 390 are destroyed. As in other affected countries, the storm has curtailed the supply of electricity and phone services, and has hampered the distribution of water. The towns along the southern Antiguan coast line are most severely affected. Fire Island, All Saints, Liberta, Bolan, and Crab Hill are disaster areas as a result of extensive damage in the low- and middle-income neighborhoods. The hospital and airport on both islands are damaged - as are many businesses in Antigua and one school and two hotels in Barbuda.

Having pre-positioned personnel in Barbados prior to the hurricane's fury, BHR/OFDA was in a position to immediately deploy two, three-person assessment teams to the eastern Caribbean. One team arrived in St. Kitts and Nevis on September 22 and the other arrived in Antigua and Barbuda on September 23. In follow-up to the U.S. ambassador's disaster declaration, BHR/OFDA chartered aircraft on September 25 for the delivery of relief supplies to Antigua and the forward shipment of those supplies to the other affected islands. In total, 514 rolls of plastic sheeting, eleven 3,000-gallon water bladders, and 1,903 five-gallon water jugs were delivered to Antigua. These commodities were distributed as follows: 302 rolls of plastic sheeting, four water bladders, and 1,150 water jugs to St. Kitts; 100 rolls of plastic sheeting, two 3,000-gallon water bladders, and 200 five-gallon water jugs to Nevis; 11 rolls of plastic sheeting, 1 water bladder, and 51 water jugs to Barbuda; and 101 rolls of plastic sheeting, 4 water bladders, and 502 water jugs to Antigua. Both assessment teams assisted in off-loading relief supplies, coordinated the delivery of relief supplies with local government officials, and carried out in-country training on the use of plastic sheeting. BHR/OFDA also contributed $150,000 to PAHO's appeal for emergency assistance to the eastern Caribbean. These funds will be used to respond to the health needs of hurricane victims in both island nations.

* BHR/OFDA Assistance to the region: $20,000
BHR/OFDA Assistance to the Dominican Republic: $2,061,817
BHR/OFDA Assistance to Haiti: $399,850
BHR/OFDA Assistance to the eastern Caribbean: $500,300
Total BHR/OFDA Assistance: $2,981,967

* The $20,000 in region-wide assistance was used for the transportation of assessment team members.

Roy Williams
Director
Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance