Haiti Braces For Hurricane Tomas

More than a million displaced Haitians are bracing for the effects of Hurricane Tomas, which is expected to pass by Haiti early Friday.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

First an earthquake, now a hurricane is striking Haiti. And we're going to go to NPR's Jason Beaubien he's in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. He covered the Haitian earthquake months ago, and is now back again for the storm.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Port-au-Prince is getting pounded with rain at the moment. We haven't gotten a lot of wind yet. This hurricane is still just south of the southern part of Haiti. But here in the capital, definitely heavy rains there's water gushing through the streets. Was driving around this morning, some of the low-lying areas are already flooded that's pretty normal in Port-au-Prince. But it's clear that this is going to be a a major storm and it's going to have a major effect here, because the brunt of it hasn't even hit yet.

INSKEEP: And where are you, in the city, right now?

BEAUBIEN: Right now I'm actually in Carrefour, which is just south of the city; it's an area closer to the epicenter that was really quite hard hit. I was just in one of the camps, here, and several women were showing me that water's already pouring into their it's hard to describe them as houses into the shacks that they live in that the tarps are, sort of, filling up with water on the roofs. And they're pushing the water out. And, as I said earlier, this is just the beginning.

INSKEEP: I'm glad you mentioned the epicenter, there, because we should remember, as many would from your vivid coverage earlier this year, that countless people were left homeless by the Haitian earthquake. Many of them have been living in tent cities or in shacks. And the government, in recent days, has been telling people: please get out of your tents and go to find shelter somewhere. Are people actually able to do that? Are there options?

BEAUBIEN: Not really. Some people were able to get in to some government buildings that they opened up. But were talking about more that a million people who are living in tents, who are living under tarps, who are living in shacks that they cobbled together out of just, you know, some tarps and some sticks. And there was no way that that number of people were going to be able to get moved into shelter. Probably a few thousand people were able to get moved in. At one camp, Corei(ph), they had a camp that they decided that they needed to evacuate the entire camp of 6,500 people. The plan was to just move 1,800 of them and it's not even clear that 1,800 of them got moved out. So it is been a real challenge to get people into shelter.

INSKEEP: Jason, do you see very many signs of substantial rebuilding since the earthquake in Port-au-Prince?

BEAUBIEN: No. And right in front of me, right now, actually, some people are just still digging up rubble, throwing it into a dump truck. They're still in the cleanup phase here very much in the cleanup phase. There are parts of the capital which still look like an earthquake just hit a few days ago. Um, yeah, rebuilding really has not happened on any significant level yet.

INSKEEP: That's interesting, though, to hear that people are still digging up rubble and doing work, on this morning, when a hurricane seems to be approaching and we don't know how serious the danger or the damage might be. How are people approaching this impending storm what's their attitude?

BEAUBIEN: Well, schools are closed and most businesses are closed. So most people have are not working today. There are some people that told me that they're actually really frustrated by this storm, in part, because they're unable to work. That means that they're just going to have less money for food. People are living so day-to-day, that the fact that a hurricane means that they can't that's their biggest concern about this hurricane.

This truck that's loading rubble right in front of me, it is sort of the exception. Most people are not out and about today, compared to the normal real hustle and bustle that you get in Port-au-Prince. There are obviously people in the streets, you know, guys coming by selling Coca-Cola right now. But for the most part, people have taken this day off and are seeking shelter wherever they can.

INSKEEP: That does sound like people are not exactly panicking, though.

BEAUBIEN: No, people aren't panicking. People are really, sort of, resigned that this is gonna happen, that there aren't very many good options for shelter. Some people definitely told me that they are worried, that when the winds hit, that these tarps are going to get blown all over the place. But for the most part, given the limited options that they have, people seem to be just resigned to take whatever comes.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jason Beaubien is in the rain in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where people are awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Tomas.

Jason, thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

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