Hurricane Tomas, Haiti’s Next Crisis?

A category 1 Hurricane pounded St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines yesterday.   The storm has already caused major damage to infrastructure and housing in those countries.  According to the latest forecasts, Hurricane Tomas is expected to make landfall in Haiti on Friday.

Everyone is preparing for the worst.  The UN is estimating that 500,000 people in the west and south of the country will be affected. They are asking that donors send an additional 150,000 tarpaulins and 100,000 blankets in addition to those already in stock. Food aid is being pre-positioned to the likely affected areas and the United States Navy is even mobilizing the USS Iwo Jima to provide logistics assistance.

Cholera is also an ongoing concern. So far, the outbreak has claimed 337 lives out of  4,764 confirmed cases of cholera.  There are five cholera treatment centers operational in Port-au-Prince and three others in the Artibonite valley, which is the center of the epidemic.  The UN and NGO groups responsible for “Water Health and Sanitation” (WASH) released a Hurricane Tomas strategy that includes rushing to fill gaps in areas likely to be affected by the storm and are bolstering facilities in Port au Prince.

Unless weather patterns change, Hurricane Tomas will strike Haiti. And though the Hurricane is weak as far as these things go, it can still inflict serious damage to a country with as struggling an infrastructure as Haiti.  Here is hoping all this preparation is able to limit the hurt.

UPDATE:  A reader asks for images of Tomas’ damage in Barbados. Here is some raw footage from YouTube. As you can see, it’s clearly a powerful storm.