Said Marie Josette Alcinor, also of Camp Mega 4: “I decided to leave but I don’t know if I am better off than those who decided to stay behind.”
There are 45 shelters that have been prepared, 14 of which were activated Friday for camps that are either in a ravine, near a river or likely flood.
The pre-evacuations were requested by Haiti’s government and carried out by the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration, whose chief spokesman called Isaac “a terrifying event.”
“It’s all very, very bad news for Haiti because you’ve got people living in camps here, living under basic tarpaulin that have already been shredded by the sun and rain over the last two and a half years,” Leonard Doyle said. “Very vulnerable people suddenly being exposed to high winds.”
Still, aid workers had their work cut out Friday as they tried to evacuate the most vulnerable from camps around the capital.
“A lot of people have been nervous about leaving and have refused to leave. They are concerned that the few paltry possessions they have will disappear,” said Doyle. “Many have stayed back.”
But at Jean-Marie Vincent High School, Haitians did arrive: on crutches, carrying their paltry possessions, women, children, the elderly.
It’s not just tent dwellers who are at risk in Haiti, a country prone to mudslides, overflowing rivers and dangerous flooding.
“These communities in many, many cases are very, very vulnerable. You have deforestation. All around the beautiful mountains of Port-au-Prince, the trees are gone and what this means when there is any rain it comes down in torrents and takes boulder with it, canyons emerge in a couple of hours,” said Doyle. “So there are major, major issues with what’s known as disaster risk reductions...heavily populated cities, poor infrastructure weak governance. Despite the best efforts of the leadership.”
Impact on the South
With the storm projected to heavily impact Haiti’s southern coast, officials remained worried even though the area no longer has any tent cities. Les Cayes, a seaside community on the southern coast and Haiti’s third largest city, is notorious for flooding even during regular rain.
“People should be under tin roofs at the very least, in more safe structures,” Doyle said. “There is a system in place. It’s weak, but Haiti is a weak country with a weak government but at least they are getting their heads around it. They have done some training and are in a far better position today than they were last year or the year before.”
In Jacmel, the weather Friday was the same as in the capital. Some light rain with no huge wind. The sea was a bit agitated.
Roosevelt Guerrier, a government official in Les Cayes, said more than 100 shelters have been identified in the southern region, 10 of them located in Les Cayes.
Residents living near the sea and in vulnerable areas were urged to evacuate. But by 6:30 p.m. they were refusing to do so, said Guerrier.
“They’re refusing to leave, saying they cannot just leave their homes like that. They say they’ll wait and see,” he told The Miami Herald. “They said two years ago with Thomas, they were warned that a lot of damage would happen and nothing happened.”