January 2010 Update: If you have already seen this page before, please read my 2010 update, in the lower half of this webpage, about the 7.0 earthquake that ravaged Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti.
Read the update from September, 2008, on the BBC website, about the damage caused by Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Hanna to Haiti. There was also considerable damage in the Dominican Republic (video).
When Hurricane Georges crossed the island of Hispaniola in 1998 from the southeast to the northwest corners, it destroyed all the agriculture, many homes, roads, power lines, and most bridges. Tourist destinations were also damaged, affecting one of the country's most important exports. Damage around Santo Domingo and Santiago was repaired, but the rest of the island was left to fend for itself. Agriculture is the only source of income for most rural people there and it took several years for people to recover.
In the summer of 2004, four hurricanes devastated much of Florida and caused major flooding damage in eastern parts of the United States, all of which have been covered in detail by the media. However, much less attention was paid to other damaged areas outside the United States, except for the Haitian city of Gonaives. See photos below.
In May of 2004 there was major flooding in the southwestern Dominican town of Jimani and the Haitian town of Mapou, which was covered in the news because many people died there. The river overflowed and washed away most of Jimani. On the Haitian side of the border, the damage was even more severe.
On September 17 and 18 of 2004, tropical storm Jeanne damaged the southeastern town of San Pedro de Macoris, Samana, Las Terrenas (further North), and the Haitian city of Gonaives in the northwestern part of the island. This means that the upper two thirds of the island was ravaged by wind damage and flooding, just a few months after the southwestern part of the island was ravaged by flooding. In other words, most of the island has been damaged, a fact not mentioned by the media, who appear not to notice much unless there are many fatalities.
While the United States can recover relatively quickly from the damage suffered this year, since President George W. Bush asked Congress for $7.1bn for disaster relief in Florida and other southern states, increasing to $12.2bn the amount of aid allocated during the current hurricane season, the Dominican Republic and Haiti simply do not have the vast resources available in the United States. Add to this burden the increases in fuel prices and the severe devaluation of the Dominican currency, the Peso, which lost about half its value against the dollar in the last two years.
If every visitor to my website would donate one dollar to help the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, over $40,000 would be raised in just one year. Please send one dollar to AmeriCares. They provide monthly shipments of medicine and medical supplies to the island. According to Reliefweb, "for every $100 donated [to AmeriCares], more than $2,800 of aid is created through partnerships and in-kind contributions," so your dollar goes much further. Be sure to include a note saying that you want your dollar to help the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
AmeriCares Foundation, 88 Hamilton Ave., Stamford, CT 06902.
Here are more charities offering help to the island:
The American Red Cross, International Response Fund, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.
UNICEF, 333 East 38th Street, New York, NY 10016.
Doctors Without Borders USA, P.O. Box 1856, Merrifield, VA 22116-8056.
Lutheran World Relief - Caribbean Hurricane Relief, PO Box 17061, Baltimore, MD 21298-9832.
Episcopal Relief and Development, c/o 2004 Hurricane Relief Fund, PO Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101.
eTraining offers free disaster recovery training for volunteers.
Below are images I found on the internet. They show the reality of the situation. The Hispaniola lies between Cuba and Puerto Rico.
The stunning beauty of paradise is wonderful for tourists and foreigners . . .
but the reality for most of the poorest local people is grinding poverty, lacking food, education, electricity, running water, health care . . .
All you can do is put on a brave face as you prepare to cook dinner.
Images like this became familiar in 2004:
They got running water, but not the kind they wanted.
The consequences were completely devastating to those least able to recover from them.
The last image shows the towns (underlined) that were severely damaged, as were, of course, all areas in between. Since San Pedro de Macoris, Samana, Las Terrenas, and Gonaives were all damaged by tropical storm Jeanne, then Higuey, La Romana, San Francisco de Macoris, La Vega, Santiago, Puerto Plata, and Monte Cristi, were also damaged.
Update 13 January 2010:
A huge 7.0 earthquake struck the capital of Haiti, Port au Prince, yesterday. The center of the quake was only about 10 miles west of downtown Port au Prince. One reporter said that every building was either damaged or collapsed, as was every vehicle he saw.
The city was covered in a cloud of concrete dust. You can watch a Youtube video about that here. Click on the image to see the video.
This reminds me of the cloud of dust over New York on 9-11-01, which caused thousands of firemen, police officers and residents to develop breathing problems and chronic lung disease from concrete forming with the moisture in the lungs. The same is now certainly happening to hundreds of thousands of people in Port au Prince.
According to reports, there is no electricity, no running water, no phone service. Roads are impassable because of building debris and damaged vehicles. This means food distribution will be difficult. Without water, a health crisis looms in a city of over two million people. The hospitals are in ruins, so injured people cannot get help. Buildings and homes on hillsides, (much of the city is built on hillsides), were ruined as some hillsides collapsed into the ravines below. The homes of the poorest people were the weakest structurally and the most likely to collapse. Haiti has not begun to recover from the hurricanes of 2008, and now the capital is brought to its knees by a huge earthquake.
The Presidential Palace collapsed, as did the Parliament building, the cathedral, the main prison, many schools, hospitals, and hotels. These images are from the internet. The last image shows the fault lines that cut through the island of the Hispaniola.
"We sometimes think that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty." (Mother Theresa)