September 17, 2021

Election postponed in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew batters the island/108 dead in Haiti

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screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-4-11-08-pmBY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND DANIEL CHANG From Miami Herald

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s destructive pass through Haiti, which left at least 10 people dead, hundreds of thousands displaced and a death toll certain to climb, elections officials on Wednesday postponed Sunday’s rerun presidential and legislative elections for the second time this year.

The delay was expected by many Haitians after Tuesday’s battering from Matthew, a monster Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 mph that made landfall along the country’s southern coast bringing 15 to 20 inches of rain and triggering fears of a cholera outbreak. But elections observers, and some candidates, criticized the Haitian government for failing to set a new date for the election.

The country’s Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP, announced the postponement on the day that Haitian National Police and a United Nations logistics team were scheduled to begin moving ballots and other sensitive materials to voting centers.

CEP President Leopold Berlanger said those affected by Matthew had to come first. “We stand in solidarity with them and we will not leave them behind in the electoral process,” he said. “The country is obligated to make the victims a priority.”

In January, Haiti postponed a scheduled second round of elections amid protests after opposition front-runner Jude Célestin declared he would not campaign until government officials addressed fraud allegations from the contested first round on Oct. 25.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-4-13-40-pmCélestin called the postponement “a wise decision” on Wednesday: “Getting assistance to the population is more important than elections right now. It’s difficult to go ask people to go vote, given what we’re dealing with right now. But elections are important. I hope that the CEP announces a new date as soon as possible so that regardless of the conditions, there is a new president who takes office in Haiti on Feb. 7.”

The U.S. State Department said the decision is Haiti’s alone, but that the Obama administration hopes the rerun elections are held soon.

“Our interest is that they do have elections, whether they’re Sunday or some other point in the not-too-distant future,” said Kenneth Merten, Haiti special coordinator and Western Hemisphere affairs deputy assistant secretary. “That they have elections soon, and that they have elections that are fair, transparent and credible.”

A mechanical engineer, Célestin was in Petit-Goâve with a construction team Wednesday evaluating a collapsed bridge that made it impossible to move ballots to the southern parts of Haiti. The road was impassable, cutting off the capital from the hard-hit southern peninsula.

Across Port-au-Prince, in the fishing village of Luly on Haiti’s Arcadian Coast, some residents also welcomed the decision.

“These are difficult times,” said Gerald Dumay, one of dozens of fishermen who lost their livelihoods when Matthew tore apart their canoes. “I want to vote and I was ready to vote, but elections won’t work right now.”

Presidential candidate Jovenel Moïse, who finished first in last year’s controversial Oct. 25 vote, said he was uncomfortable with the CEP’s decision without a new election date.

“The government announced the resumption of school activities on Oct. 10. It means that elections can take place on Oct. 16,” said Moïse spokesman Renald Luberice. “Before announcing the postponement of the elections, the CEP should have been forced to reschedule.”

Luberice said that interim President Jocelerme Privert “never wanted these elections. He wants to take the opportunity to postpone them indefinitely.”

Opposition candidate Moise Jean-Charles, who finished third, also called on Berlanger to provide “a fixed date,” for the rerun election.

Despite the yet-to-be-decided election date, campaigning will officially end at midnight Friday, candidates learned Wednesday.

The Organization of American States, which sent observers to Haiti in September to observe the election, also met Wednesday to address Matthew’s toll in Haiti and how to coordinate relief efforts among member countries.

Gerardo de Icaza, director of the OAS’ department of electoral cooperation and observation, said the hemispheric body agrees with the postponement.

“We lament the human loss and that people have lost their homes, properties and have been displaced,” he said.

Juan Raul Ferreira, head of the OAS’ Electoral Observation Mission, said the 125 observers will be ready to support the vote “when the relevant authorities decide they are ready to hold elections.”

Berlanger, the CEP president, said a new date could come by Oct. 12. The elections body, he said, needs to evaluate the damage and assess its ability to transport voting materials to the hardest hit areas.

In response to the delay, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is running for reelection, issued a statement calling the postponement “justifiable” but urging a rapid return to the polls for Haitians.

“It cannot be used as an excuse to perpetually postpone it and further undermine the democratic process there,” Rubio said. “We need effective U.S. leadership on the humanitarian response for all the obvious human reasons, but also so this election can be rescheduled as soon as possible and the Haitian people can choose leaders that can address the many challenges facing their country.”

$1.5M Total U.S. Agency for International Development aid to Haiti for Hurricane Matthew
Haiti’s most immediate challenge will be recovering from the aftermath of Matthew.

Privert, the interim president, boarded a U.S. Coast Guard plane Wednesday afternoon to conduct an aerial survey of the southern peninsula. The country’s two international airports reopened Wednesday morning.

As the storm headed for the Bahamas, the extent of damage in Haiti began to come into focus for international relief workers. Especially hard hit were communities along Haiti’s southern peninsula.

At least 10 people were confirmed dead and 10 injured due to Matthew, the Office of Civil Protection said Wednesday morning, but the toll was likely to climb.

Spokesman Edgar Célestin said officials were completing an assessment of the storm’s impact, especially in the Grand’ Anse Department, whose residents remained isolated without cellphone service. Matthew knocked out communications throughout the southern coast of Haiti and forced the temporary closure of the international airports in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien in the north.

At least 1,855 homes were flooded, affecting about 2,700 families, officials said, as the number of people evacuating to shelters rose from 9,000 to 15,623.

“Most of the area has been hit pretty hard,” said R. David Harden, an assistant administrator with the U.S. Agency for International Development, speaking with reporters on teleconference Wednesday. “Communications are down in most of the affected areas.”

A team led by U.S. Southern Command began deploying to Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. The advance team planned to create a staging area at Port-au-Prince’s airport in preparation for the arrival of C-130 cargo planes carrying additional personnel and equipment.

The first humanitarian flight arrived in Haiti Wednesday afternoon, with plans to deploy the American volunteers to Dame Marie in the Grand’ Anse Department Thursday.

In addition, a team of 100 U.S. military personnel and nine helicopters is positioned on Grand Cayman Island, where they had arrived on Tuesday but remained on Wednesday afternoon, waiting for the weather to improve before traveling to Haiti, where they will provide support for disaster relief missions requested by the Haitian government.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon conveyed his solidarity Wednesday with the people and governments of Haiti, Cuba and other nations in the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Matthew.

“In Haiti, the government reports that a number of people have lost their lives and estimates that at least 350,000 people need immediate assistance,” he said in a statement.
U.S. AID dispatched more than two dozen disaster response workers to Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas before Tuesday, and positioned food, hygiene materials and water purification systems in strategic locations.

Harden said the agency’s humanitarian assistance for regional hurricane relief in the region totals $1.5 million worth of aid, including $1 million to provide food vouchers and rations, cash transfers and meals at evacuation shelters. About $500,000 will go to international efforts in Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas to provide logistics support and distribute relief supplies, such as drinking water, hygiene kits and household goods.

“I would say that represents a robust engagement, given where we are at this time,” Harden said. “I mean our assessments haven’t even come back, and what we’re doing now is simply trying to save lives.”

WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW IS SIMPLY TRYING TO SAVE LIVES.
R. David Harden, U.S. Agency for International Development

Harden said Matthew dumped 15 to 25 inches of rain in Haiti, and that officials were worried about preventing an outbreak of cholera, which bedeviled the country after the earthquake in January 2010.

“A lot of our assistance is going to focus on water and sanitation, which is probably the most effective means to inhibit the spread of cholera,” Harden said.

At the White House, President Barack Obama urged Americans to keep in mind that one of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti, which is already suffering from a range of previous disasters, has been hit “really hard by this storm.”

“We anticipate that they’re going to need substantial help,” Obama said.

Miami Herald staff writer Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report.

IMAGES:

A car is stranded in the flood waters caused by Hurricane Matthew, in Leogane, Haiti on Tuesday. Matthew slammed into Haiti’s southwestern peninsula early Tuesday with howling winds of 145 mph tearing roofs in the poor and largely rural area. The storm also uprooted trees and swelled rivers already choked with debris. Dieu Nalio Chery AP

A man piggybacks a woman across a a street flooded by a nearby river overflowing from the heavy rains caused by Hurricane Matthew, in Leogane, Haiti, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Rescue workers in Haiti struggled to reach cutoff towns and learn the full extent of the death and destruction caused by Matthew as the storm began battering the Bahamas on Wednesday and triggered large-scale evacuations along the U.S. East Coast. Dieu Nalio Chery AP

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article106163162.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article106163162.html#storylink=cpy

Related story:

Hurricane Matthew Leaves More Than 108 Dead In Haiti

bridge-haitiFrom CARIBBEAN360
bridge-haiti
DAMAGED BRIDGES HAVE CUT OFF SOME COMMUNITIES FROM THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. (PHOTO CREDIT: JACQUELINE CHARLES/TWITTER)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Thursday October 6, 2016 – Facing a death toll of at least 108 people and widespread catastrophic damage to their country, Haitian government officials speaking in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew today vowed to take charge of their country’s reconstruction — even as they had yet to assess the extent of destruction from the storm.

“The situation is catastrophic,” President Jocelerme Privert said. “The situation is critical.”

Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph confirmed the number of dead. Privert, who spoke at a press conference on the grounds of the National Palace, said there has been “enormous” damage to the country.“There are a lot of areas in the country that have been affected; a lot of places that are difficult to access,” he said.

Haitian officials said more than 28,000 houses have been damaged so far but evaluation is only in the initial stages. All international assistance will be coordinated through the Haitian government, they said, as the nation began the painful assessment of damage.

Yesterday, Privert traveled in a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft and got his first look at the battered coastline along the southern peninsula. He offered sympathies to all the families impacted by the storm.

“What we saw out of the airplane’s window,” he said, “the situation is really catastrophic…it is truly a disaster.”

Today he hopes to actually land in one of the sites when he visits by helicopter. Two U. S. helicopters also deployed to the area, and two United Nations M-17s landed in Jérémie. On board one of the aircraft was Haitian National Police Chief Michel-Ange Gedeon.

Privert said while he will visit cities in the Grand’ Anse and the Grand South, other ministers will deploy by SUV to other communities. Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles is supposed to visit the far northwest, where the storm inflicted considerable damage along the coast, leaving at least one person dead.
The Haitian government said it welcomes international assistance, but that unlike after the earthquake in 2010 — when the international community decided where aid would go, without accounting for where it actually went — the Haitian government will take charge of the reconstruction after Matthew.

A ministerial commission was empaneled to coordinate the aid.

“The response that all of our partners want to give, it is us, the government who will tell them where we have needs,” said Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles. “So the different sectors can have control over what’s happening on the ground.”

People will not “just be able to land and say they are here to bring assistance, and then when we do the evaluation we realize that there is nothing to show for it,” he said.

As Haitian government ministers deployed across the country today, they were accompanied by United Nations disaster response teams and humanitarian groups.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, Farhan Haq, a spokesman, said Haitian officials estimate that at least 350,000 people are in immediate need of humanitarian help, although that number may rise as assessments come in from areas with limited communication and access.

Haq reported that more than 15,600 people were evacuated and nearly 1,900 homes were flooded. Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed.
More than 21,000 people remained in shelters, according to Edgar Celestin, spokesman from the Office of Protection Civil said. He said the number of deaths and the amount of damage both are expected to rise, especially in hard hit areas like the Grand’ Anse.

The department on Haiti’s southern peninsula remains mostly cut off from communication, with the worst damage reported from Port Salut West to Dame Marie. Other parts of the country were also seeing major damage.

“Everybody’s house is destroyed, the people can’t eat and have to drink coconut water to sustain them,” said Sen. Francky Exius, who is from Les Cayes.

Exius, who complained about the slow response of the government, said two bridges are damaged in Port Salut.

“The people are demoralized, they have no hope,” he said.

Reports also began coming in today on widespread devastation in Jérémie, in the Grand’ Anse, where food was reported to be scarce with gardens destroyed.

Jean-Michel Vigreux, CARE Haiti country director, reported that 80 percent of the buildings were destroyed.

“All phone lines and electricity are down. Access is completely cut off, and everyone is running out of food and money. The bank is offline. Everyone is very shaken up,” he reported.

In Arcahaie, the biggest banana-growing region in Haiti, approximately 80 percent of banana crops were destroyed by winds and flooding, reported Christy Delafield, a spokeswoman for Mercy Corps, a nonprofit providing humanitarian relief in the country.

Delafield said in an email that the destroyed banana crops supported about 20,000 families in the region, and that farmers may have difficulty replanting the crops because of salt water intrusion from flooding.

Cholera has also been a fear in the wake of the storm.

Vigreux reported three cases in the Jérémie hospital but the facility has no generator. The World Health Organization reported five new cases of cholera in Randel on Oct. 3.

Since the large cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010, the epidemic has been contained but outbreaks continue. According to the WHO, Haiti has reported 754, 972 cholera cases, including 8,863 deaths, since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2010 until the end of December 2015.

A total of 36,045 cholera cases were reported in 2015, an increase of 30 percent, or 27,753 cases, over the prior year.

Vigreux also reported that Jacmel, capital of the Department South-East, was hit hard, with the number of people in shelters rising from 2,700 to 4,000.

The U.S., Venezuela and Holland have all offered aid to Haiti in the aftermath of the storm. A humanitarian flight from Venezuela flew into Haiti yesterday with supplies to help victims.

The World Food Program, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, along with non-government organizations all reported scaling up support in Haiti for critical shelter, water, sanitation and food assistance.

Yesterday, Haiti postponed its scheduled rerun of the presidential elections that had been set for Sunday. No new date has been set. (Story from Miami Herald)

For more on this story and video go to: http://www.caribbean360.com/news/hurricane-matthew-leaves-108-dead-haiti-number-rise#ixzz4MLJWJJdj

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