Caribbean

Isaac death toll rises to 24 in Haiti

 

As death toll from Tropical Storm Isaac continued to rise in Haiti, humanitarian experts try to determine the impact beyond the loss of lives.

jcharles@miamiherald.com

The death toll from Tropical Storm Isaac rose Tuesday to 24 in Haiti where disaster officials warned the number could increase, and donors continued efforts to assess damage to crops and homes.

Edgard Celestin, spokesman for Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection, said three people remained missing. Another 42 suffered injuries.

The deaths included a man who died in a camp when a tree branch fell on him, another young man who was killed by mudslides in the southeast and several killed by electrocution.

Beyond the lost of life, Haitian and humanitarian officials were still trying to assess Isaac’s impact as the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations flew reconnaissance flights around Haiti’s capital and some of its hardest hit regions. Among them, the southern region where mountain hamlets remained cut off to some assessment teams trying to tally the loss of crops and homes.

“We are still collecting information,” said George Ngwa, communications chief for the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe who visited several hard hit communities in the capital Sunday with President Michel Martelly said the disaster has reinforced the need to increase resettlement efforts for those living in the tents.

“This was a test for Haiti, and we did well,” Lamothe said. “The goal now is to fast track the rent subsidy program 16-6 to help more people.”

Among what was known on Monday: at least 2,346 homes damaged and 335 destroyed, according to Civil Protection. The International Federation of Red Cross, which conducted an assessment along Route 9 near the Port-au-Prince international airport, said 1,600 households were affected by floods from the rain and an overflowing Grise River. The numbers included both homes and shanties occupied by victims of the January 2010 earthquake.

The big concern, humanitarian partners said, remained over the loss of crops and the storm’s impact on a deadly cholera epidemic that has already killed more than 7,000 Haitians.

As a precautionary measure, Doctors Without Borders on Monday reopened a 275-bed Cholera Treatment Center in Carrefour, a suburb just south of the capital.

Concerns about cholera have now been joined by worry over food security as reports continued to flow about the lost of plantain, beans and other crops in storm-hit rural communities.

“We still have two months of hurricane season,” Myrtha Kaulard, World Food Program representative in Haiti. “In rural areas, we need not to underestimate the fact that some communities are isolated because beyond the collapsed bridge there are entire households that lack all possible access.

“It is absolutely important that we sustain the flight against food insecurity in Haiti because it is something that is addressable.”

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