Hurricane Matthew Update | “The word ‘apocalypse’ comes to mind”

Our Programmes Manager Ailish O’Reilly was on the island of Île à Vache when Hurricane Matthew struck.  In her powerful series of blogs, she shares her experience of the emergency response.


Saturday we are up and out at 7:30AM: the boat is waiting as we rush through breakfast.  We are tired and our new normality is wearing thin.

The USAID delivery that was such a mess yesterday is going to put down in Les Cayes today.  Damien stays on to co-ordinate the transfer to Île à Vache, so the team is split up again as John and I head to Port au Prince.

The route out of Les Cayes to Cavaillon is peppered with our exclamations and expletives.  There are buildings along by the road that we have never seen before: now, they are as clear as day, as they are no longer hidden by vegetation.  The word “apocalypse” comes to mind more than once – post-nuclear is too strong, but “end of days” and expressions like that lie just on the periphery of my thinking.

In a photo we would send home, people might liken the scenery to early spring when winter draws its last breath and before new growth is visible: the trees are bare, there is no grass growth, the ground is dry – only Haiti is never like this.  Haiti is lush and green and tropical and chaotic and vibrant, not this insipid, washed-out, barren countryside.

Huge trees are snapped in two like a pencil. We don’t recognise the IFORHT Training College until we are nearly gone past it: the wall is completely gone.  Cavaillon and the Christine Farm bring more shocks.  You can see the farm from the road now: the entire roadside groves and vegetation on the half-kilometre track is decimated.  Our showcase project of September has been reduced to zero again.

Standing in front of the huge storage shed, it looks like Hurricane Matthew punched holes in the walls, before taking the roof completely off.  The two heavy iron doors are flat on the ground between the remains of their anchor piers.

We are diminished in the face of nature’s force. 

We have some small quantity of aid with us and plan to come back on Monday with more food and supplies.  If, for any reason, we don’t meet them on Monday, we will be back on Saturday morning for Darius’s funeral.

We resume our journey to Port au Prince and an exhausted sleep takes hold.  With heavy traffic, by the time, we finally make it to Pétionville, we are happy to be off the road.  We meet up with Frank and catch up on aid collections: we have a jeep load of stuff to take with us on Monday.

That evening, we meet with fellow NGOs including Concern, Oxfam, and the Pan-American Health Organisation. The meeting possibly secures us a cholera tent, some supplies, and news of an orthopaedic team for two patients.  We also hear that our stroke patient is back in Les Cayes hospital, and they will advise when he needs to transfer back to the island.  We will put him into our Outreach Programme for therapy and home visits.

The challenges and news from around the other agencies and zones reflects our story: there is a lot of work to be done out here.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is visiting the south, and we know this will probably make news at home again.  From Île à Vache, we hear that the tarpaulins have been transferred to the island and are in the depot.  It has been a long day for the guys down there.  A truck of food aid leaving the airport in Cayes earlier in the day had been stopped and all the food taken.

Aid is slow to filter through and areas that are not getting help are starting to help themselves from the passing convoys.

To help Haven’s recovery efforts in Haiti, please give what you can here.  100% of funds raised go directly to our emergency relief work on the ground.



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