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Haitians fear worst with Hurricane Tomas comment (0)

November 11, 2010

Hurricane Tomas hit western Haiti on Nov. 5, battering earthquake-ravaged cities with 85 mph winds and torrential rains.              

In the 10 months since the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haitians have lived in fear of hurricanes, with 1.3 million homeless in unsanitary and unstable tent cities.

After a possible nationwide outbreak of cholera was contained to the city of St. Marc in October, now the hurricane is making the situation even more perilous.

Those living in tent cities are most at risk. What the strong winds do not destroy, the floodwaters will, as thousands of tents line riverbanks and low-lying areas.

Florida and Southern Baptist disaster relief teams on the ground in Port-au-Prince made preparations prior to Tomas’s arrival, securing supplies and equipment from the flooding that had already swept through the city’s streets.                

Although media reports suggested that the government was moving people out of the tent cities, Eddie Blackmon, Haiti Rebuild coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, said he had driven through the tent cities in Port-au-Prince several days prior to Tomas’ landfall and had seen no evidence of such a move.

“There is really no place for them to go,” Blackmon said. “If there were, the government would have moved them before now.”

Fritz Wilson, incident commander of the Haiti earthquake response and Florida Baptist disaster relief director, reported that the convention has 17 tons of rice positioned in warehouses across Haiti, with pastors trained for making distributions if needed. “We have our supplies and resources on the ground,” Wilson said.

“In God’s timing,” he said, “next week we are scheduled to take more than 4,000 Buckets of Hopes to Jeremie and Les Cayes,” towns in southwestern Haiti that were hammered by the hurricane Nov. 5. Each bucket, packed by Southern Baptist hands including Alabama Baptists, contains enough food to feed a Haitian family for more than a week.

Florida Baptists, working in partnership with the 1,000 churches of the Confraternite Missionaries Baptiste d’Haiti, have responded to eight disasters in the past 15 years. Florida Baptists shipped bottled water and water purification filters to St. Marc in late October to help stem the cholera outbreak in that city, located about 60 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince.

The supplies were sent after Fritz Albert, director of missions of Haiti’s Artibonne Baptist Association, issued a plea of help.

“Pastor Albert asked if there was anything we could do to help provide pure water for churches in the St. Marc area,” said Blackmon, who is stationed at the Florida Baptist Mission House in Port-au-Prince.

“The outbreak has scared everyone in the area, making them afraid to drink any water.”

Cholera, a bacterial infection of the small intestines, can cause vomiting and diarrhea so severe it can kill victims from dehydration within days.

The disease is spread through contaminated water, food and poor sanitation.

Volunteers from First Baptist and Hillcrest churches in Pensacola traveled to Haiti on Oct. 30, with 30 water purification drip-type filters that can be installed on five-gallon buckets to help stem the lack of pure drinking water.

Additionally $30,000 was earmarked to purchase water in Port-au-Prince to be shipped to St. Marc.

Albert dispensed the water and purification filters to the churches for distribution to families in their communities.

Despite the outbreak, Florida Baptist Convention officials released a statement to their churches encouraging mission volunteers to continue with scheduled plans.

Blackmon reported that the Pensacola medical teams treated 800 patients during the week of Oct. 24–30 and another 600 patients before being sent home.  (BP, AP, NWS)

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