Dominican Rep.

Dominican Republic floods prompt massive relief efforts

Written by Bonnie Gillespie , Staff Writer,
Since late November, widespread flooding has inundated portions of the Dominican Republic as driving rains overwhelmed river embankments, forcing more than 47,000 residents from their homes. Raging floodwaters and deadly mudslides have claimed at least nine lives and wreaked havoc across the Caribbean island nation.

The American Red Cross, the Dominican Red Cross, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have launched widespread relief efforts to assist some of the 65,000 people affected by the disaster. Emergency supply distributions are ongoing for residents throughout the northwestern Cibao Valley and the lower Yuna River Basin, areas still reeling from the devastating floodwaters.

"Some homes are flooded to the point that water is still up over the tops of houses," said Langdon Greenhalgh of the International Disaster Response Unit of the American Red Cross. "Residents are wading in water up to their waists in other area as they try to get back to their homes to salvage what they can of their belongings."

Even where floodwaters have receded, many streets and houses are caked in mud and the water supplies are contaminated. Almost 500,000 acres of farmland were swamped by floodwaters, impacting both the nation's food supply and its economy. Early estimates predict millions of dollars in total damages. In the most severely flooded provinces of Santiago, Montecristi, Valverde and Duarte, more than 5,000 families are believed to be "critically affected" by the disaster.

"Many people are very emotional because they've lost everything," Greenhalgh said. "What few possessions these people did have were wiped out in a very short period of time."

Red Cross partners are ensuring the immediate needs of flood victims are met by distributing food parcels and hygiene kits to thousands of residents. The Dominican Red Cross has also dispatched water trucks to areas with contaminated water supplies and supported 21 shelters to house evacuees.

Additionally, the American Red Cross developed an emergency service delivery plan for relief assistance in Duarte and Montecristi, two of the most saturated regions where standing floodwaters are attracting disease-carrying mosquitoes. Hygiene kits along with mosquito nets will be supplied to 10,000 area residents.

American Red Cross team members are also providing technical assistance and relief distribution training to Dominican Red Cross staff and volunteers. Together with other national and international organizations, the two Red Cross societies have helped raise public health and hygiene awareness at this time of increased risks of waterborne and airborne diseases.

"Relief operations are really picking up steam each day," said Greenhalgh. "More and more distributions and activities will be happening over the next ten days to two weeks to meet the needs of the people."

All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help those affected by this crisis and countless others around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Donate online or call toll free 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-257-7575 for Spanish speakers) or you can mail in your gift to the International Response Fund, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.


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