Oct 6, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Makes Old Problems Worse for Haitians

Azam Ahmed
The New York Times
Photo: Hector Retamal, Agence France-Presse
Photo: Hector Retamal, Agence France-Presse

The first reports to arrive were of vast flooding and destruction, rivers of brown water pulsing through streets and homes shorn of tin roofs. Eventually, the talk turned to livestock lost, a veritable fortune for those living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

But three days after the worst storm to strike Haiti in more than 50 years, the death toll is rising, and fast. From initial estimates of five dead, the government is now saying more than 280 people have been killed in Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath, the worst natural disaster to strike the nation since the earthquake of 2010.

The storm left a broad tableau of devastation: houses pummeled into timber, crops destroyed and stretches of towns and villages under several feet of water. In the southern city of Jérémie, 80 percent of the buildings were destroyed...

The sudden surge in numbers reflects, in some ways, the very nature of the many challenges that Haiti faces. The country’s infrastructure had been in decline for decades, even before the earthquake and other storms weakened it further. A fragile communications system, too, was unreliable even in the best of times