Devastated Haiti Offers Little Shelter From Approaching Hurricane Tomas

Nov 4, 2010
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.
A displaced Haitian tries to strengthen his tent in a homeless camp ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Tomas. (Photo: Reuters Pictures)

Aid groups and government officials are rushing to get as many Haitians to shelter as possible as Tropical Storm Tomas threatens to batter the devastated nation with hurricane-force winds.

Tomas is gaining strength and is projected to strike Haiti's southwestern coast early Friday, at which point it may be a Category 1 hurricane. 

1.5 million Haitians are still homeless after last January's massive earthquake. Despite government entreaties to seek refuge with friends and family, many poor Haitians lack the resources to move to shelters.

Most Haitians have few options, and the storm's arrival could exacerbate the public health crises already traumatizing the nation. More than 400 people have died as the result of a virulent cholera outbreak that has sickened thousands.

Meteorologists expect the storm to dump 5 to 10 inches of rain on Haiti. Deb Ingersoll of the American Refugee Committee told CNN why that is a concern:

"Any amount of rain is dangerous here," Ingersoll said, noting that many residents are housed in tents that have experienced sun, rain and wind for 11 months and are "not very well secured."

Relief agencies are dismantling camps so that tents and other shelter materials don't become projectiles in the wind. 

According to The Miami Herald, many residents of the nation's ramshackle slums are resigned to slogging through the battering:

"We don't have the means to leave or prepare for anything,'' said Aecene Guerrier, 39, a camp dweller in Place St. Pierre, a hillside suburb of Port-au-Prince. His common-law wife, Souvenir Mathurin, 41, conceded she had taken one precaution: She had tied down loose tarp straps on their closet-size shelter.

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