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Thousands of Haitians who lost their homes in Saturday's earthquake have been getting pummeled today by rain and winds from Tropical Storm Grace. The storm crossed directly over the quake-ravaged south of the country last night, and this is adding to the suffering and hampering efforts to get relief supplies into the area. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from outside the city of Les Cayes.
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: For the first two nights after the earthquake, many residents here in the town of Coteaux slept in the main street. Fifty-seven-year-old Kettly Rosier is one of them.
KETTLY ROSIER: (Through interpreter) We cannot stay inside because all the house have been cracked, and we are very afraid, and we go outside.
BEAUBIEN: But then yesterday afternoon, rains from Tropical Depression Grace pounded the area. Fierce winds whipped the palm trees from side to side and tore at tin roofs as the weather system intensified into a tropical storm. Rosier and several of her neighbors took shelter in a house that had minimal damage from the quake.
ROSIER: (Non-English language spoken).
BEAUBIEN: She says the situation here now is worse than when Hurricane Matthew struck as a Category 4 hurricane in 2016. At least then, people's homes hadn't all just been damaged by an earthquake. Rosier is so terrified to go inside her house that she's moved her kitchen to a tin shack outside.
She's got a small charcoal stove. It's not even a stove. It's a grill to cook on. And she's got pots and pans here on the floor, a chopping block over here. Yeah, it's very, very basic.
Rosier says she hopes to repair her house so she can at least move back in, but she doesn't know how she's going to pay to do that.
ROSIER: (Through interpreter) I don't know what's going to happen. And every night, I have to go to the house of my friend to sleep. She already have so much people inside the room. I don't know how many days I will be in this situation.
BEAUBIEN: This situation is playing out throughout this part of Haiti right now. UNICEF estimates that more than 84,000 houses were damaged or destroyed in the quake and 1.2 million Haitians have been affected by the disaster. Near an outdoor market in Les Cayes, hundreds of people were erecting makeshift shelters yesterday, ahead of the arrival of the storm. Noisil Smil, a father of seven, was building a shelter out of strips of plastic sheeting he'd gathered. He was lashing the plastic to a frame of wooden sticks with wire from the remnants of a steel-belted radial tire.
And in terms of food, he's just got a bowl of rice with a lot of flies buzzing around it. Does he have more food than that or...
NOISIL SMIL: (Through interpreter) That's all that I have.
BEAUBIEN: Images taken today of the field where Smil was setting up camp show the settlement destroyed, the ground a flooded, muddy mess, shelters shredded by the wind. The storm didn't just upend people's lives again here. It also forced many aid agencies to suspend operations and delay shipments of relief supplies into the region.
AKIM KIKONDA: Yeah, this situation is really bad. People are suffering. They've lost their houses. Hospitals are overwhelmed.
BEAUBIEN: That's Akim Kikonda, the head of Catholic Relief Services in Haiti.
KIKONDA: Rain is still falling, so we really need tarps and tents so that people can be protected from the rain and from the sun.
BEAUBIEN: Aid agencies are mobilizing what's expected to be a massive relief operation. But so far, very little of that aid has actually arrived. As of this morning, Kikonda said Catholic Relief Services had only been able to help about 200 families. Kikonda says efforts to get supplies into the area have been hampered by blocked roads, bureaucratic hurdles and now Tropical Storm Grace. One bit of good news is that rains are expected to stop for the next couple of days, allowing people to dry out and for aid groups to ramp up their operations.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Southern Haiti.
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