Brooklyn’s leading Haitian-American politician says his homeland needs better emergency management
Councilmember Mathieu Eugene Seeks an Agency Like FEMA For The Disaster-Plagued Caribbean Nation
As Haiti struggles to recover from the ravages of Hurricane Matthew, Brooklyn’s leading Haitian-American elected official is set to unveil a sweeping plan to help it deal with future natural disasters.
City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene is scheduled to hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Oct. 6 to announce that he has formed a task force to discuss the creation of “a permanent emergency and disaster management organization for Haiti.”
Eugene (D-Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush) told the Brooklyn Eagle he will be joined at his announcement by Haiti’s Ambassador to the United Nations Denis Regis, Haitian Consul General Peter Helder Bernard, a representative from the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, medical practitioners from two of Brooklyn’s foremost hospitals, Kings County Hospital and Maimonides Medical Center, several local elected officials and representatives of a number of community organizations inside and outside the city’s Haitian community, which numbers an estimated 90,000 in Brooklyn and about 40,000 in Queens.
“We are going to talk about the [Hurricane Matthew] relief effort being coordinated by those organizations,” said Eugene. As of Friday afternoon, the death toll in Haiti stood at nearly 300.
“Right now, the people of Haiti don’t have an infrastructure to respond to emergencies like these,” Eugene said. “The task force will work together to create a permanent emergency and disaster management organization — like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) here in the United States to respond to emergencies such as hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
“I’m convinced that if we put together a permanent agency like the one I’m talking about, both here and in Haiti, we’ll be in a better position to help the people of Haiti in times of disaster,” the councilmember said.
As the killer storm moved past Haiti and up the Caribbean, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that rescue workers struggled to reach cut off remote towns to learn the full extent of the death and destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew.
The storm battered the southeastern tip of Haiti with 20 inches of rain and 145 mph winds, deluging communities and leaving flimsily built shacks destroyed in its wake.
“What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged,” said Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph. “Some lost rooftops … while others were totally destroyed.”
International aid efforts were stymied by the fact that floods washed out roads and bridges, while rivers rose and water washed down lightly forested mountains and hillsides, heightening the threat of dangerous mudslides.
Mourad Wahba, the U.N. Secretary General’s deputy special representative for Haiti, told the AP that at least 10,000 people on Haiti had taken refuge in emergency shelters and hospitals, which were jammed to overflowing. Wahba’s statement called Matthews’s destruction the “largest humanitarian event” since the devastating earthquake of January, 2010.
Here in Brooklyn, Councilmember Jumaane Williams, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte and 42nd Assembly District Leader Josue Pierre released the following statement:
“We offer our deepest prayers and sympathy to the victims and all those affected by Hurricane Matthew, particularly in Haiti, which was one of the hardest-hit locations. We are working closely with local Haitian organizations to identify needs and provide support to those impacted by the hurricane.”
The politicians said those wishing to donate items could drop them off at the following locations:
The Flatbush YMCA, 1401 Flatbush Ave.
The Multicultural Bridge Project, 1894 Flatbush Ave.
The Haitian Family Resource Center, 1783 Flatbush Ave.
They added that for those with family and friends in Haiti, a hurricane relief/evacuation center has been opened at the Haitian American Caucus’s Haiti-based community center in the town of Croix-des-Bouquets. The contact information is: Samuel Darguin, HAC country director, Haiti Community Center, 64 Rue Double Harvest, Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti.
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