Hurricane Matthew Update | “One step closer back to normal”

Ailish O’Reilly is Haven’s Programmes Manager in Haiti.  She was on the island of Île à Vache off the south coast of Haiti when Hurricane Matthew hit last week.  Here, she tells us of the experience and of the devastation caused to the community.


Okay, I know we are technically on the weekend and maybe that is why my body does not want to get up.  I am as tired now as when I went to bed.  On reflection, I was probably a little dehydrated and maybe felt some delayed shock.  It is disorientating to wake up in a hotel bedroom when you are only five miles from home.

There are reports, photos and videos to try and get out to home.  The internet is agonising.  We get 95% of the mail loaded, and then it goes or drops.  We are kneeling on the floor in one of the bedrooms trying to download the emergency response links and registers, so we can put Île à Vache onto the rota.

We head back to Madame Bernard to organise deliveries and look for more assistance from outside agencies. bring a television crew to the island, and we accompany them to see the impact of the hurricane.  It seems surreal to be doing a television interview and to talk about everything that happened.  I hope they don’t use the clip where I almost cried.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of being afraid; it is just so as not to worry my family. 

Watching the crew’s reaction to our stories makes us realise what an amazing thing it us for us all to have survived; their biggest surprise is that we have no casualties, and I even detect a hint of disappointment from a news-worthiness standpoint.

Nicole has cooked a big pot of lobster; the fishermen on one of the small islands had given us a big bucket as a thank you for bringing aid.  I get a quick taste and it is delicious; it is just as well as we never make it back for lunch.

Frank is the only one trained to operate the chainsaw; he makes short work of the large mango tree lying across the path.  It is an infinitely quicker job than with the machete, although, in deference to the local men, they have done a great job of removing felled trees with only hand tools.

I visit my house and grab a few things to keep me tipping, along with clean clothes.  We sit and have a chat among neighbours to see how everyone is getting along.  The front yard of Kay Brunese is like a laundromat with washing strung everywhere.  It is a lot of hard work, but it is one step closer to back to normal.

There is another round of water deliveries to the island.  The stroke patient will be evacuated in the morning via air or land ambulance to St Boniface.  His brother will accompany him.

Back in the office at the mayor’s, we are busy pulling together the data we have to date on the impact of the hurricane.  Requests for aid are continually being issued, and co-ordination of receipt of aid is happening at the same time.  We buy as many water sachets as we can find in the local depot.  This will be for distribution with the kits when they arrive.  They are moved to the depot as night falls.

We are tired and, yes, a bit irritable with each other.  It is Pierre Marie’s birthday, so we head down for a beer before going back to Kaykok.  It is far from the birthday celebration we would normally have planned with our friends: maybe a picnic or barbeque on the beach.  Some of those same beaches no longer exist or are covered in debris.

With the hot sticky weather and all this manual work, a swim in the evenings would be lovely, but the water looks and smells far too contaminated to do anything more than just think about it.  The heads are well and truly down this evening as we face once more for home.

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