At approximately 3PM yesterday, a strong storm manifested over Port-au-Prince without any significant warning. Several team members were out in the storm (but in vehicles). High winds knocked down trees and blew around debris, dirt and dust. There were reports of cyclonic winds and tornadoes but no confirmation yet. Heavy rains accompanied the storm and flooded streets. Many streets became impassable due to flooding, accidents or downed trees. The storm lasted approximately 1 hour. Thousands of tents and tarps were flattened, hundreds of shelters destroyed. Several camps flooded, some up to the knees. At present, five casualties have been reported but that number is expected to rise.
The team was on a camp site today by 8 to inspect damage and offer assistance. Because of security concerns, the team was not allowed into the actual IDP camp, but helped in cleaning out the medical tent area, removing debris and collecting any surviving items for transfer to the newly acquired building. All of the debris in the camp was cleaned out by 11AM.
Our Regional Program Manager, Eric Cesal, in concluding his report, said: ‘As a somber ending to all this, I ask whatever update is written reflect the reality we’re facing here on the ground. I was beaming with pride today, both for the fact that our work was the work that stood up, and for how the team responded to the crisis this morning. But I think we should temper our pride with a check-in of what we’re really facing. People are dying here. The high winds lasted for only 15 minutes, and managed to throw this city into complete chaos, leave thousands shelterless, and kiling five people. The next storm may not be so charitable. As I write, its begun to rain again.’
Frontline/The World June 2008