Haitian Americans in Brooklyn prepare to aid countrymen as Hurricane Matthew hits the island
Borough-based group sets up emergency shelter as category 4 storm bears down on vulnerable Western Haiti
As Hurricane Matthew deluged western Haiti with torrential rains and winds of nearly 150 miles per hour Monday, countrymen here in Brooklyn mobilized to help them survive the storm.
Forecasters predicted that Matthew could inundate Haiti with as much as 40 inches of rain, sparking fears that massive floods and mudslides that can’t be stopped by the island’s thin forests could obliterate entire villages that consist mostly of flimsy wood houses with corrugated tin roofs.
Despite authorities’ door-to-door efforts to warn residents about the dangers of the approaching Category 4 storm and offer them shelters in churches and schools, many residents in Haiti initially resisted government warnings to evacuate their homes. But that didn’t stop concerned organizations like the Haitian American Caucus from scrambling to set up safe havens for them.
As early as Sunday afternoon, the Haiti-based arm of the Haitian American Caucus had set up a hurricane relief/evacuation center in the city of Croix-des-Bouquets, eight miles northeast of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. The emergency facility offered hot meals to evacuees on Monday morning and evening.
“We are working overtime to ensure everyone is safe here at the Haitian American Caucus-Haiti,” said Sam Darguin, the organization’s country director. “We’ve reached out to our partners, friends and family members in the neighboring communities to let them know our doors are open.”
Sam Pierre, executive director of the Haitian American Caucus’ Brooklyn office on Flatbush Avenue, added that the grassroots group was “taking all the necessary precautions to ensure our constituents and members in Croix-des-Bouquets [are] prepared and can withstand whatever the storm may bring.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Brooklyn Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush), the first Haitian-born elected official in New York, said Eugene was meeting with local Haitian community leaders to discuss further hurricane relief efforts.
Hurricane Matthew is being called one of the most powerful hurricanes in recent history, having briefly reached Category 5 — the top status of hurricane strength, making it the strongest in the region since Hurricane Felix in 2007.
As of early Monday, the Associated Press reported that two deaths in Haiti were attributed to Matthew, bringing the death total to four, including one man who was killed as the storm lashed Colombia and a teenager who died on the island of St. Vincent.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Matthew was expected to pass east of Jamaica and near or over the southwestern tip of Haiti early Tuesday before heading to eastern Cuba.
“We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba,” said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center. “People who are impacted by things like mudslides hopefully would get out and relocate because that’s where we have seen loss of life in the past.”
By late morning Monday, the storm was located about 205 miles southwest of the Jamaican capital of Kingston and was reported moving north at 6 mph. Its heavy rains had already flooded parts of the island. A hurricane warning was posted for the southeastern Bahamas. It was too soon to accurately predict, said National Hurricane Center forecasters, whether Matthew would threaten anywhere on the East Coast of the U.S.
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