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Hurricane Dennis leaves trail of destruction in Cuba and Haiti

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July 11, 2005, Baltimore, MD - Hurricane Dennis left a trail of destruction in its wake this weekend, leaving thousands homeless and causing massive flooding in parts of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The Category 4 hurricane had maximum sustained winds near 150 MPH, and caused the most damage in Cuba and Haiti where Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is concentrating its relief efforts.

In Cuba, at least 10 people have died, and over 1.5 million were forced to flee their homes before the hurricane made landfall on Saturday. Reports indicate the destruction of thousands of homes, the interruption of electric, water and gas services to millions, as well as extensive flooding and damage to crops. The central provinces of Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritu, Villa Clara, Matanzas and eastern Havana as well as the eastern provinces of Santiago and Granma received the brunt of Hurricane Dennis. In the central part of the island some 28 toppled relay towers have hindered the reporting of damage.

Although Havana was spared a direct hit, reports indicate that in the eastern part of the city, 1,828 homes were severely damaged and 30 others totally destroyed; 29 schools, 21 clinics and 13 hospitals were damaged; and 350 trees and numerous power lines were uprooted.

CRS/Cuba is working closely with Caritas Cuba, the social service agency of the Catholic Church in Cuba, and the Archdiocese of Miami to provide help in the recovery phase. Thus far, roofing materials, mattresses and other basic necessities have been identified. Additional needs assessments will be conducted as the days progress.

In Haiti, 29 deaths have been reported, and numerous people are still missing. The heavy winds and rainfall either destroyed or severely damaged over 100 homes, and more than 500 people were forced into temporary shelters. A bridge on the main road between Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes, one of the areas main transport arteries, collapsed over the weekend and will need to be rebuilt.

CRS/Haiti is coordinating its response with Caritas Haiti to distribute basic food stocks to those families who took refuge in temporary shelters. Potable water has been distributed to nearly 1,000 families in areas where the water systems were destroyed. This was done in close collaboration with the UN peacekeeping troops in Haiti and Water for Life, an NGO involved in water projects in the Southern Peninsula of Haiti. The water systems in the towns of Grand Goave and Cotes de Fer have also been destroyed. Repair of these systems, which serve thousands of families, will take place immediately as the population has no access to potable water.

CRS has long history in both Cuba and Haiti. Since 1993, CRS has been working with Caritas Cuba to provide emergency aid and humanitarian and developmental assistance to alleviate the immediate needs of the poor. In the last 12 years, CRS has delivered over $25 million in medicines and medical supplies to Caritas Cuba for distribution through provincial hospitals, homes for the elderly and to other vulnerable groups.

CRS began working in Haiti in 1954, with programming focusing on both relief activities and long-term development work. CRS/Haiti has two offices, one in Port-au-Prince with 112 staff members and one in Les Cayes with 64 staff members. CRS/Haiti has also 23 staff members based full-time in the field to support its programs in the countryside.

Catholic Relief Services is the official humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in 99 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed.