Christian Aid in Haiti is bracing itself for the worst hurricane ever to be recorded in the Atlantic Ocean to hit. Hurricane Irma has been classed a category 5, the highest rating possible, which means it has the potential to cause mass devastation; destroying homes and lives in its path.
Christian Aid is preparing for Irma to strike Dominican Republic on Thursday and Haiti on Friday. It is working with local partners on evacuation plans and stockpiling provisions.
Prospéry Raymond, country manager for Christian Aid in Haiti and Dominican Republic said: “Hurricane Irma is huge and we are very worried about the people in Northern Haiti and the Dominican Republic; particularly vulnerable communities. Our partners are doing all they can to evacuate as many people as possible and find them safe shelter.
“For example, in the North East of Haiti, we have built more than 160 hurricane-resistant houses, and some of those families will host others if needed. But we fear that Irma will wipe out even well-built houses.
“People are being moved to schools and churches for safety but in some areas, especially in the North West of Haiti, these buildings will not withstand the force of the storm. In these cases, they need to be transported to safer locations in the cities.
“We work with some of the poorest communities in these countries and they are still reeling from Hurricane Matthew last year which was also a category 5. There is no time for them to recover between these disasters and now we are already hearing about Hurricane José which is only about four days behind Irma”.
Climate change experts believe Irma is so powerful because there has been a rise in temperature in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricanes benefit from warmer water.
Richard Ewbank, Climate Advisor at Christian Aid, highlights the links between climate change and the severity of the hurricane. “Cyclones churn up the sea surface layers below them, mixing cooler, deeper water with warmer surface layers. This usually limits the ability of the storm to persist and gather moisture. But in Irma’s case, and in Harvey’s last week, the deeper layers are also warm creating a longer and more dangerous storm. Irma has had longer over open water to build up to category 5 (Harvey only made 4) and develop a larger storm surge”.
As well as evacuating people, Christian Aid partners including MISSEH, KORAL and Haiti Survie are clearing the ravines and canals of rubble so that the expected influx of rainfall can flow more easily and not cause even more damage by blocked waterways pushing the water through communities.
Prospéry Raymond, country manager for Christian Aid in Haiti and Dominican Republic, is available for interview. You can hear him speaking about the challenges of delivering aid during a hurricane here.