Tropical Storm Isaac: Victims fault government for not enough “concrete action”
Aug 29, 2012, by Yves Pierre-Louis, published in Haiti Liberté (weekly)
Following the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac through Haiti from Friday, August 24 to Aug. 25, 2012, Haitian authorities gave a preliminary damage report at a press conference on Aug. 27.
According to the authorities of the Civil Protection Office (OPC), the two departments most affected by the storm were the West and the South East, where the balance sheet amounted to 19 dead, more than 300 houses destroyed, 15,812 displaced, and hundreds of houses damaged. Agriculture, roads, and electricity networks were also hit hard. (Reports on Aug. 28 said the death toll had risen to 24.)
Isaac also plunged Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, into a total blackout, with all 32 power grids knocked out. Dukens Raphael, the Deputy Director General of the state power company Electricity of Haiti (EDH), announced that workmen were working hard to repair the damaged electrical network, with 11 grids already back up by Tuesday.
In terms of prevention, the central government sent each of nine departmental delegations two million gourdes (US$47,500), while the delegation of the West department received five million gourdes (US$118,900), according to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. Nonetheless, there were many cries of help from various parts of the country after the storm.
Appeals for assistance came from La Saline, downtown Port-au-Prince, Kenscoff, Tabarre, Canapé Vert, and other places. In the giant slum of Cité Soleil, the polluted grey river running though it overflowed and flooded many houses, while the roofs of many others were blown away Friday night. The population of Cité Soleil is desperate.
At Delmas 32, the large tent camp of internally displaced people (IDPs) from the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, commonly called “Camp Accra,” storm victims complain that they received no assistance during or after Tropical Storm Isaac’s passage.
“The wind came and blew away our tarp,” said one young 32-year-old woman who has lived in Camp Accra since the earthquake 32 months ago. “We spent the night in the rain. All of our things got wet. We didn’t sleep. We didn’t see any authorities. They left us here to die. We live amidst garbage. We don’t have security; all the time criminals steal our things, or rape us. The cholera that MINUSTAH [the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti occupation force] brought is killing people in the camp since it started raining. Someone died here [of cholera] already last week. The way we see it, we don’t exist in the eyes of Haitian authorities. We heard that they removed the people in the square of Pétionville and on [Port-au-Prince’s central square] the Champ de Mars, but for us victims here in Delmas, we haven’t yet seen anybody come talk to us.”
The earthquake victims in the AVIC camp in Canapé Vert behind the old Teleco building mobilized on Sat., Aug. 25 to make their voices heard. But the police intervened and arrested nine of them: Feneh Daniel, Toussaint Carl, Edouard Ralph, Donal Monéus, René Hendry, Fritz Monima, Figaro Domingue, Michel-Ange Saint-Jean, and a man known just as Junior. Their crime? Demonstrating to call for protection from the Haitian state as Isaac passed through.
In the capital’s downtown, on Lalue, Margarette Fortuné heads a camp containing 65 families. She called on the government for help. “I called several times nobody answered me,” she said. “I was forced to appeal to the Secretary of State for Public Security, Reginald Delva, who promised to follow up. I rate the government 10 out of 10 in their prevention and awareness campaign, but in terms of concrete action, they get zero. We have already recorded one death in the camp, a 2-year-old child, because he couldn’t get medicine.”
The Miami Herald reported that there was some “dispute” and skepticism about how many people the government actually relocated. “The International Organization for Migration evacuated 1,000 people before the storms,” the Herald wrote. “On Saturday, Civil Protection announced that 5,000 were in shelters, and on Sunday the numbers had increased to 14,000.” The OPC “defended the numbers, saying many had sought shelter even after Isaac’s passing,” the paper said.
According to the OPC, Isaac has left thousands of victims of all kinds in its wake, but the threat of flooding remains.