November 5 2010

SOS Children’s Village Santo prepares for Hurricane Tomas

05/11/2010 - The SOS Children’s Village Santo is preparing for the possibility that Hurricane Tomas will hit Haiti on 5 or 6 November, either as a hurricane or a tropical storm.

Photo: Hilary Atkins
Dark skies over Haiti - Photo: H. Atkins
While the hurricane’s path has been continually monitored it was not clear whether it would bypass Haiti. Now it seems that the chances of hitting Haiti are high and emergency preparations are being made. UNOCHA in Haiti (UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs) project that the storm could affect up to half a million people, particularly in coastal areas where there is a danger of flooding. In a country already plagued by abject poverty and devastated by an earthquake and a cholera outbreak, this is just one more emergency to be dealt with.

Photo: Hilary Atkins
Making space in the classrooms - Photo: H. Atkins
On 3 November the Ministry of Education declared that all schools, both private and state run, would be closed on Thursday and Friday so that children are not put at risk. The schools were already closed on 1 and 2 November due to the All Saints holiday; the students had only just returned yesterday. But no-one is taking any chances.

Photo: Hilary Atkins
All loose objects are tied down - Photo: H. Atkins
At the SOS Children’s Village in Santo anything loose is either being taken down (such as the tents used as classrooms) or tied down. The 86 people (aunties and children) currently living in the temporary shelters are being moved into empty classrooms where they will at least have solid walls around them and a kitchen and lavatories at their disposal.

Photo: Hilary Atkins
Windows are boarded up - Photo: H. Atkins
Currently the wind is strong and it is believed that this wind is the precursor to the storm. The SOS Children’s Village in Cap Haitien is also taking precautions against the chance of strong winds and heavy rain.



Photo: Hilary Atkins
Tents used for lessons are taken down - Photo: H. Atkins
Haiti is frequently affected by hurricanes. As recently as 2008, the country was hit by four level-V hurricanes within just two months, leaving 77 people dead and over 10,000 families without a home. SOS Children's Villages reacted by initiating an emergency relief programme that provided 50 heavily affected families with basic supplies over several months.