This report is produced by OCHA Haiti in collaboration with the civil protection and humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 3 to 4 July 2021 and is based on the information and data available to date. If no major impacts are reported by 5 July, no further report will be published.
• Tropical Storm Elsa - a Category 1 hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm following a change in strength - hit the southern peninsula of Haiti on Saturday 3 July, causing strong gusts of wind and rain. However, the impact has been much lower than expected.
• Preliminary reports indicate destruction of agricultural land and many roofs of houses and other public buildings, downed trees and communication powerlines. Three injured; no casualties reported.
• Assessments by authorities and humanitarian partners continue. Further information is expected to be gathered on Monday, 5 July.
On Saturday 3 July at 5am, the Hydrometeorological Unit of Haiti (UHM) decreed the level of red vigilance (risk of strong to violent impacts) over the whole country, but particularly for the departments of Sud-Est, Sud, Ouest, Nippes and Grande-Anse. The UHM forecast heavy rainfall totals of up to 100 to 150 mm in the plains, and even 200 mm on the heights, as well as strong wind gusts of 118 to 130 km/h and dangerous maritime conditions in the south of the country.
The Departmental Emergency Operation Centers (COUD) of the Sud, Grand'Anse, Sud-Est et Ouest departments were activated on Friday 2 July, the National Emergency Operation Centre (COUN) in the morning of Saturday 34 July. The national contingency plan has been partially activated. The DGPC opened a total of 251 emergency shelters in the Grand’Anse, Sud and Sud-Est departments. The Red Cross provides public awareness on the South Coast. A total of 300 volunteers have been mobilised in the Grand-Sud and the Bas-Nord'Ouest.
On Saturday 3 July at 11am, as Elsa approached the southern coast of the country, the category 1 hurricane strength weakened after having passed over the Lesser Antilles, prompting the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) to downgrade the low pressure system to a tropical storm. Its centre remained in the Caribbean sea. Nevertheless, strong winds hit the southern peninsula throughout the day. The rainfall was lighter than expected.
According to the civil protection, the damage caused by the storm, apart from the impact on some banana and maize plantations, was mainly limited to falling trees and blown-off roofs. During the storm, a few hundred people sought refuge in emergency shelters in the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. However, the majority of these shelters have been closed in the meantime as people went back to their home or relatives. An in-depth analysis of the impact of winds on maize and banana crops is needed. No damages to roads and infrastructure have been reported. The rest of the country appears to have been largely spared the wrath of Elsa.
Due to the deteriorating security situation in Haiti and the fuel shortages, emergency response organizations may encounter logistics challenges in their efforts to reach those potentially affected, particularly on the southern peninsula. UN agencies have pre-positioned relief supplies, although resources have been partially used to respond to other ongoing emergencies, such as the displacements in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince. The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) remains on standby for a potential flyover of the most affected areas, if necessary.
Although the storm is gradually moving away from the Haitian peninsula, strong storm winds were still reported, particularly in the Sud and Grand’Anse department, on the morning of Sunday 4 July. Active vigilance level is maintained, although the DGPC downgraded the alert level from ‘orange’ to ‘yellow’ on Sunday morning and deactivated the COUN in the afternoon.
While the impact of the has been minimal, the same regions were affected by tropical storm Laura in August 2020 which saw a total of 31 deaths, affecting over 8,835 houses including 6,272 flooded, 2,320 damaged and 243 destroyed, primarily in the Sud-Est, Sud, Ouest and Nippes departments. While an assessment of damages is underway, recurrent climatic shocks and emerging needs would come against a backdrop of already depleted humanitarian resources due to response efforts to the recent spike in violence which has caused an increase in displacement and humanitarian needs.
Further information gathering is planned for Monday, 5 July, to obtain more details about the impact of the storm from governmental partners, NGOs and the UN on the ground to issue a final report.
The arrival of Elsa provided an opportunity for emergency response actors to test the warning and response mechanisms, which worked reasonably well. Dozens of volunteers of the Red Cross and the DGPC have been mobilized in the communes to alert the population. National and international partners were kept regularly informed and stood ready to intervene if an immediate large-scale response was required. The DGPC will organize an after action review to see how to enhance preparedness for subsequent cyclones as the cyclone season begins.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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