Over the weekend, Communications Officer Paul O’Brien, took to the air with MAF to bring help to the hardest hit communities.
‘Les Cayes is something of a gateway to the devastation of Hurricane Matthew’, he writes.
‘As we began travelling west and following the shoreline, the damage becomes more and more prevalent. Les Cayes is the largest city of the area and there are numerous smaller villages nearby that connect along the road headed west.
'These smaller villages are where you glimpse the damage the hurricane wrought. More and more houses are no more than four dilapidated walls (or less), with their tin roofing and doors nowhere to be seen. Numerous churches destroyed, power lines downed - and being used as clothes lines.
More and more houses are no more than four dilapidated walls (or less), with their tin roofing and doors nowhere to be seen.
‘We got out to see for ourselves the remaining two thirds of one’s house that was situated no more than 20 feet from the ocean shore,’ Paul continues. ‘That missing third of the house – it’s facing wall and a portion of the floor – was shorn clear from the house along with whatever ground there was under it prior to the storm.’
Mobilising MAF’s response
With a permanent presence in Haiti, MAF was able to respond immediately to requests for help. And as the situation in some of the worst hit communities unfolded over the weekend, a massive relief response is needed.
Our team were kept very busy responding to requests for assessment and relief flights and they don’t expect the volume of requests to diminish any time soon.
NGOs and partners, intent on getting farther into the worst hit western peninsula, attended an MAF briefing on Saturday. With communications networks down and only limited information available, ‘no-one had had the opportunity to get good reports until now,’ explains Paul.
Our partners were particularly keen to reach two of the locations MAF flies into: the city of Jeremie, the capital city of the Grand Anse 'department' of Haiti, located on the northern side of the south-western peninsula; the other Dame Marie, a town that sits nearly as far west as able on the peninsula.
Flying where the need is greatest – Jeremie and Dame Marie
The city of Dame Marie in the hardest hit region was described by one eye witness, missionary David Harms, as 'like another Haiti'. The area had been mostly self-sustaining with abundant natural resources of fruits and vegetables and a successful industry centred on cocoa. Flying over, it is clear the hurricane destroyed all of it, sweeping away the regions infrastructure, livelihood and food sources in one fell swoop.
In Jeremie, the challenge will be ensuing security at the airstrip so help from planes can get to those in need. Pilot David Harms struggled to land at Dame Marie on Saturday and was forced to make multiple flyovers because of the number of people on the airstrip.
When the plane finally landed, the aircraft was immediately swarmed and David was only able to drop off his cargo and pick up his passengers after a local ‘head honcho’ arrived to control the unruly, desperate crowds.
Three flights in one day
With aircraft keeping to tight schedules MAF is helping as many partners as possible. On Friday, Pilot Michael Broyles made a total of three return flights in his Cessna 206 aircraft.The first of these flights was for Haiti Bible Mission (HBM) who build churches, schools, and minister in prisons and amongst the needy around Jeremie. Director Mark Stokeland explained that 'we could not do what we do without MAF in Haiti.' The destruction meant it was difficult to locate the HBM houses from the air. The compound was badly damaged although the staff were mercifully safe.
The second trip to Les Cayes carried medical equipment and two doctors from Samaritan’s Purse Who will spend up to two months assessing and treating patients in Haiti's south-west.
The third and final leg was for World Concern to assess their facilities around Cayes. Team Rubicon co-founder; who had spent the past few days preparing to deliver aid and work to open roads that have been blocked, joined the return leg.
Perilous roads and river crossings
Team Rubicon described the hazards of their 5.5-hour-drive to conduct a damage assessment. Discovering their route was blocked by two missing bridges they made a dangerous river crossing in three feet of rushing water.
Conditions facing hurricane survivors on the ground included the dangers associated with pools of standing water, a breeding ground for diseases such as cholera. There is every expectation that there with be a rise in mosquito-borne illnesses.
In the communities themselves, Team Rubicon reported seeing people band together to start the clean up operation. They are mobilising teams to do WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) projects and bringing in chainsaws to help clear downed trees.
Emergency help – ongoing need
With the number of confirmed deaths now estimated at over a thousand, and 61,537 evacuees in 191 temporary shelters, and more than 750,000 in need immediate assistance the need, MAF is committed to meeting the ongoing need.
One of the ways we will do this is through flights carried out for our partners such as HERO. We flew a team of HERO paramedics to Dame Marie to relieve a medical team that had been working there for 48 hours with no break. On the return trip we were able to bring a pregnant woman that HERO then transported to Bernard Mevs hospital in Port-au-Prince for medical treatment.
MAF continues to assist partners including Medair, Tearfund, Samaritans Purse, Food for the Hungry, and Global Empowerment Mission to reach the most vulnerable, and is continuing to monitor the situation - with the possibility of providing more aircraft if needed.
How can I help?
Donate to our Haiti emergency appeal
Please give what you can and help MAF aircraft reach the 750,000 people needing emergency help after hurricane Matthew.
- 1.3 million people in Haiti have been affected by Hurricane Matthew. Please continue in your prayers for the injured and suffering.
- Pray for the strength and fortitude of the MAF Haiti team, and that those they serve will see Jesus in them.
- Pray that God would use the Church in Haiti as they reach out and express the love of Christ to their neighbours.