August 23, 2012
Haiti Prepares for Tropical Storm Isaac
Update: Saturday morning, our team reported that the storm had hit hardest between 1 and 4 a.m. When we spoke with them, the power was out and it was still raining, with gusts of high wind happening periodically and a lot of debris down in the streets. Our director was still checking in with staff members, but fortunately our Animal Welfare Center did not sustain any major damage. We will head out later today if we’re able to a nearby tent city to assess the situation in the area and see if there is anything we can do to help. Mudslides and flooding are still potential dangers.
by Amelia Muccio
Today, HSI's Haiti team worked to fortify our Animal Welfare Clinic against Tropical Storm Isaac, expected to gain strength and hit the island as a category one hurricane in the next 24 hours.
In harm's way
The U.S. National Weather Service is projecting a significant amount of rainfall, with the possibility of up to 20 inches for Haiti. Given the country's fragile infrastructure, the storm poses a significant risk to our area (Croix-des-Bouquets) as well as Port-au-Prince, where 400,000 residents are still living in tents, displaced after the 2010 earthquake. Historically, storms producing less rain here have triggered deadly flash floods and mudslides, so the threat should not be underestimated.
Reaching out to residents
Our veterinarians spent most of the day in the community, talking to residents about how to prepare for the storm and keep their animals safe. Community education is key because knowledge is power in Haiti. Amazingly, many people didn't even know that the storm was coming until we told them. Our staff provided not just animal-related preparedness information, but lifesaving emergency communications.
Battening down the hatches
The rest of the HSI Haiti team secured the clinic for the protection of the animals here, purchasing enough supplies including water, food, diesel and batteries in order to be self-sufficient for 72 hours after the storm. We will do all that we can to provide a safe environment for the people and animals who will ride out Isaac at our facility.
Our efforts to prepare ourselves and our neighbors will make a difference as the dangerous storm moves over the country. And the HSI Haiti team, including our seven veterinarians, stands ready to respond in whatever way is needed once Isaac has passed.
HSI, with the help of partner groups such as Best Friends Animal Society, has ongoing programs in Haiti that focus on street animals and working equine welfare and the expansion of animal welfare awareness in the country. We have established the Haiti Animal Welfare Center, a first-of-its kind animal hospital that cares for animals in need as well as doing humane education outreach to local communities and schools.
Amelia Muccio is Director, Haiti Project & Disaster Operations for HSI.