As the scale of devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean becomes apparent today, Oxfam staff in Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are preparing to do needs assessments and to respond if requested.
Oxfam’s spokesman in the Haitian capital Port au Prince, Jean Claude Fignole, reported heavy rain, very strong winds and flooding.
“We are hearing of roofs being torn off houses and of storm surges up to seven metres high,” Mr Fignole said.
At its centre, Hurricane Matthew was generating gusts of up to 260km/h, with average winds of 230km/h.
“Water is going to be a major issue as of today. Our priority is to get clean water and hygiene items to families as fast as possible to avoid a spike in cases of cholera.
“In the weeks and months to come, access to food is likely to emerge as big issue. Some crops in the south of the country have been totally destroyed.
“Oxfam has teams deployed to six priority areas in support of the Haitian Government including in the south, which has borne the brunt of the storm. We are preparing to provide drinking water and hygiene kits to people in these areas,” Mr Fignole said.
“Thankfully the force of the storm was not so strong in Port au Prince where 50,000-60,000 people are still living in tents after the earthquake of 2010.”
Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Manager Meg Quartermaine said there was concern that a hurricane of this magnitude could have caused widespread damage.
“We’ll get a clearer picture of the level of damage as more information emerges today and communications services are repaired,” Ms Quartermaine said.
“Given the vulnerability of people in Haiti, we’re really concerned about the potential devastation OF this storm.”
Donations to support Oxfam’s emergency responses can be made online at oxfam.org.au/icf and by calling 1800 034 034.