Cap Haitien struggles to recover from spring floods

By April 11, 2013

Haiti (MNN) — Cap Haitien is still trying to clean up after massive flooding hit this week.

Didn't hear about it? That's not surprising, says Eva DeHart with For Haiti With Love. "It's Cap Haitien. If it was Port-au-Prince, it would be all over the papers. Cap Haitien is on the north coast, and there aren't regular news people up there; unless it's really catastrophic, it just doesn't make the news."

How bad was the flooding? "You would think three feet of water in the second-largest city in Haiti would make the news," DeHart observes, adding, "This was spring rains–which are monsoon-type rains–for three days, compounded by the fact that they were working on two bridges."

She says project engineers "put dirt runarounds around those bridges for the construction. At the time the rains hit, the outlets were blocked, so it was like damming up the city."

To put flooding into perspective, compare the waters to the first storm surge in Florida (Monroe County) by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, measured between 3-5 feet (1.5 meters). There, according to the United States Department of Commerce, more than 1 million customers were left without power, and damage in Florida was estimated from $1 – $2 billion, with most of the damage coming from flooding and overturned trees.

In Haiti, the disruption was magnified by poverty. The water tore into homes and washed people (kids) away. DeHart says people quickly mobilized to help the most vulnerable. "There are two orphanages out beyond the airport, and neighbors were carrying the children to dry land."

Now that the outlets have been unblocked, the water has drained off, leaving yet another set of problems. DeHart explains, "You've got cholera and the diseases that come with flooding. You've got the fact that this was the prime time for their crops harvesting. I have not been able to find out the conditions of the gardens since they opened up those rivers and let those waters go down."

If the crops don't survive, "We could be looking at a repeat of last November where all of the fresh roots and veggies are gone." For Haiti With Love's feeding program will be even more necessary in between flood recovery, cleanup, and a questionable harvest.

DeHart says thankfully, fresh supplies arrived in port on Tuesday. Roseline DeHart spent Wednesday clearing the containers through customs. Eva says the trek up the mountain to their warehouses could be tricky, so "hopefully they'll have the mud under control by the time [Roseline] gets it through customs."

Despite yet another hardship for Haiti, Eva is quick to add that every time the garden comes up, it's a new day. Haitians are an optimistic people. "They have a stronger faith because they have to rely on it. You give them that glimmer of hope, and you tell them about God and about Jesus. They're eager to believe because they really need that message, and they hold tight to it."

For more on the work of For Haiti with Love, click here.


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