3 November 2010
The British Red Cross is preparing for yet another emergency in Haiti, with officials describing Hurricane Tomas as the gravest hurricane threat to the country since Ike in 2008.
Haiti is on high alert with authorities predicting the storm will hit the south-west of Haiti on 5 November and may come close to a direct hit on the capital Port-au-Prince and other areas affected by the earthquake on 6 November.
“This is cause for serious concern,” said Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross recovery operations manager, who is in Haiti this week. “The people of Haiti have already lived through an earthquake, fear of a cholera epidemic and now a hurricane is on its way. These people are already highly vulnerable, and of course, hundreds of thousands are still in camps because of January’s earthquake.”
The Red Cross has been preparing for the threat of a hurricane since February. Volunteers have provided emergency first aid training, and handed out waterproof bags that contain safety messages and can be used to store and protect important documents.
The organisation has emergency stocks for 17,000 families in Haiti, which are ready to be distributed to communities affected by the hurricane. Additional supplies for 8,000 families have also been called in from the Red Cross’ regional logistics hub in Panama.
Alastair added: “We have been preparing for this kind of event since the first weeks of the earthquake. Even if there is not a direct hit, we know from experience that heavy winds and rain can trigger disasters and that we need to be prepared. Red Cross volunteers are working with communities to help them dig drainage ditches, sandbag hillsides and create evacuation routes.”
Double disaster threat
Millions of mobile phone text messages have been sent throughout the country, providing people with simple and accessible information on the steps they can take to minimise their risk. These important messages have been further relayed through weekly national broadcasts of the Red Cross’ radio station Radio Croix Rouge Haitienne.
Preparations for Hurricane Tomas are happening at the same time as the Red Cross responds to the country’s cholera outbreak. The British Red Cross has set up an observation centre in La Piste camp in Port-au-Prince, home to 50,000 people, and is working to prepare for the rapid setup of treatment facilities if the camp is hit by an outbreak.
Find out more about our work in Haiti