Haiti: Hurricane Tomas Update - Monday November 9, 2010

Overview

The death toll due to rains and flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas reached up to 20, according to Haiti's government and media reports as of Monday (November 8). No new official numbers of casualties have been reported as of Tuesday (November 9). (Tomas brushed past Haiti on Friday (November 5), but largely spared the earthquake-ravaged country from a direct hit and severe damages. Some coastal towns were flooded, and some 10,000 people were voluntarily evacuated from their homes. Despite bringing rains, the storm also largely spared crowded displaced camps in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The humanitarian community had feared for the worst for Haiti's estimated 1.3 million displaced survivors of the January earthquake. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says that the overall humanitarian response will be minor as the impact of Tomas was not as severe as expected. The main concern of the humanitarian community remains the two-week old cholera epidemic in the country that has left over 500 people dead and affected more than 8,000 others. The UN and aid agencies are also concerned that the flooding may also increase the risk of other water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, malaria and respiratory problems. UNICEF says that it is especially concerned about the impact of flooding in the northwest, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The UN reported that Tomas affected the agriculture sector the most severely. Fields were flooded, crops destroyed, and livestock were also affected.

According to the UN, Tomas caused flooding in the country's five southern departments and in other regions, including Artibonite, Centre, North West and Leogane and Gressier, west of the capital. Severe flooding also occurred in upper Artibonite, Gonaives, north of the Artibonite River. Around 15 displaced camps in the city of Leogane as well as other parts of the city have reportedly been affected by flooding from overflowing river water. The area around Leogane, Grand Goave and Petit Goave, were also badly hit, according to the World Food Program (WFP). According to the NGO, CARE, the areas of Nord-Ouest, Grande Anse, and Carrefour have also been badly affected. Flooding was also reported in Les Cayes and Jacmel. On Monday (November 8), USAID/DART reported that floodwaters in Leogane continued to recede with only minor flooding outside the central part of the city.

The NGO, ACTED, reports that in the mountains, shelters were swept away by strong winds and rains and falling rock have cut off several roads and led to the deaths of many animals. Additionally, the potential consequences to agriculture appear to be worse as peas are in the middle of blossoming and winds have destroyed buds and flowers that were going to become peapods in the coming weeks. The first assessment by the group indicate that 30 to 40 percent of the future pea harvest is lost. ACTED says that this is bad news as pea growing is the principal source of income for farmers who were already badly affected by the January earthquake. Some 80,000 people reside in the mountain communities, according to USAID/DART.

On Sunday (November 7) the UN said that as Tomas did not lead to an increase of humanitarian needs in Haiti, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team was scaled down from five team members to three who will remain in Haiti to support OCHA.

The UN's World Food Program (WFP) reports that because it had pre-positioned food in some 30 strategic points in Haiti ahead of the hurricane season, the agency was able to deliver truckloads of emergency supplies to survivors in shelters as soon as flood waters subsided in flood hit areas. WFP says that in total, food sufficient to feed more than one million people for six weeks had been pre-positioned.

On Sunday the UNDAC team reported two aerial rapid impact assessments took place. The main findings were: only minor damages observed in the South - South West, while in the North, the impact of Tomas is moderate in some locations, having minimum impact in the majority of central and northern areas. The southern part of Gonaives City and the village of Grande Salines were possibly the worst affected areas. However, 80 percent of Gonaives is functioning normally, according to the Logistics Cluster. Possible major damages to agriculture sector, mostly between Grande Salines and Gonaives, leading to concerns over long term impact to the sector, according to UNDAC. More detailed assessments are currently being conducted according to the UN.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Nigel Fisher, said that Tomas damaged the coffee crop and other crops such as bananas and urged the international community to focus on rebuilding the country. On Friday, the Haitian government and the UN appealed for international donors for some US$19 million to cover urgent needs.

After sweeping past Haiti, Tomas swept over the Turks and Caicos Islands early Saturday (November 6) as a Tropical Storm, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or serious damages. Jamaica also reportedly escaped major damage, however, rains forced several thousand to evacuate in eastern Cuba and the Dominican Republic. By Monday, reports said Tomas had dissipated over the Atlantic.

On Thursday (November 4), Tomas left at least 23 people dead in Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, mostly due to a mudslide triggered by heavy rains. Earlier, the storm also left up to 14 people dead and several others missing in St. Lucia, after the storm hit at hurricane strength last weekend. St. Lucia has declared a national emergency and has requested international assistance. St. Lucian Prime Minister Stephenson King estimates that rebuilding will cost US$500 million. (REDLAC, Govt Cayman Islands, Nov-8) The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and UN said that Tomas damaged 500 houses in Barbados and 1,200 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Tomas is the 19th named storm and 12th hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs approximately from June 1 to November 30.