Hurricane Drenches Western Haiti
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
Hurricane Tomas slipped through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti this afternoon and is barreling towards the Bahamas. Tomas caused flooding in remote parts of Haiti and dumped rain over much of the nation, but its hurricane-force winds for the most part stayed offshore.
NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Port-au-Prince.
JASON BEAUBIEN: Mother Nature gave Haiti a break. Hurricane Tomas struck the western two prongs of the Caribbean nation but spared the earthquake-ravaged capital. Government and relief officials had worried that Tomas might rip apart the sprawling tent camps around Port-au-Prince, where more than a million people are still living after the January quake.
Even without hurricane-force winds, however, Tomas inundated the shelter of Fita Raymond(ph) in a camp in Carre Four.
Ms. FITA RAYMOND: (Foreign language spoken)
BEAUBIEN: These tarps have holes in them, she says. They can't even withstand the rain. Raymond pushes up on the tarp, and a pool of water sloshes off her roof. The 51-year-old lives in this 10-foot-by-10-foot tarp shack with her five children.
Ms. RAYMOND: (Foreign language spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Right now everything is wet, she says. I'm not even sure where I'm going to let my kids sleep tonight. She says if strong winds hit this camp, she'd lose everything.
And fortunately for her and hundreds of thousands of other earthquake victims, that didn't happen today. But Hurricane Tomas underscored how vulnerable the people who lost their homes during the January quake remain.
Unidentified Children: (Singing in foreign language)
BEAUBIEN: At a camp on the other side of the capital, three little girls play in the back of an abandoned tap-tap or covered pickup truck that used to serve as a form of public transportation. This camp, Caradeux, is set on a barren, muddy hill.
Last night, the gusts from Tomas toppled tents throughout the encampment. Sixty-six-year-old Guillermo Rivier(ph) says the conditions in Caradeux for him and the 12,000 other residents are inhumane.
Mr. GUILLERMO RIVIER: (Through translator) Well, we are here, and we're living like animals. And they're asking us to leave, go to friend's and family's houses. If we had friends and family, I don't believe that we would be staying here with no trees, with nothing at all. The only thing we have is water and bathrooms.
BEAUBIEN: Matthew Marek with the American Red Cross in Haiti says Tomas showed that the government is capable of getting out the word about a dangerous hurricane, but it also highlighted the extreme hardships the people in the camps still have had to bear over the last 10 months.
Mr. MATTHEW MAREK (Head of Programs, Haiti American Red Cross International Services): It's a long time for individuals to have to endure these conditions for sure. It is not a long time - it is a very short time, for people to expect reconstruction of an urban city of 2.5 million people to be reconstructed.
BEAUBIEN: Marek says the unfortunate reality is that hundreds of thousands of Haitians are going to be living in these camps for quite some time to come.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.
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