The British Red Cross is preparing for yet another emergency in Haiti, with officials describing Hurricane Tomas as the gravest hurricane threat to the country since Ike in 2008.
Haiti is on high alert with authorities predicting the storm will hit the south-west of Haiti on Friday and may come close to a direct hit on the capital Port-au-Prince and other earthquake-affected areas on Saturday.
“This is cause for serious concern,” said Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross recovery operations manager, who is in Haiti this week. “The people of Haiti have already lived through an earthquake, fear of a cholera epidemic and now a hurricane is on its way. These people are already highly vulnerable, and of course, hundreds of thousands of people are still in camps because of January’s earthquake.”
The Red Cross has been preparing for the threat of a hurricane since February. In addition, Red Cross volunteers have provided emergency first aid training, and handed out waterproof bags that contain safety messages and can be used to store and protect important documents.
At present, emergency stocks for 17,000 families are in Haiti and ready to be deployed to disaster-affected communities. Additional supplies for 8,000 families have also been called in from the Red Cross’ regional logistics hub in Panama.
Alastair added: “We have been preparing for this kind of event since the first weeks of the earthquake. Even if there is not a direct hit, we know from experience that heavy winds and rain can trigger disasters and that we need to be prepared. Red Cross volunteers are working with communities to help them dig drainage ditches, sandbag hillsides and create evacuation routes.”
Millions of SMS have been relayed throughout the country, providing people with simple and accessible information on the steps they can take to minimise their risk. These important messages have further been relayed through weekly, national broadcasts of Radio Croix Rouge Haitienne.
Preparations for Hurricane Tomas are happening at the same time as the Red Cross responds to the country’s cholera outbreak. The British Red Cross has set up an observation centre in La Piste camp in Port-au-Prince, home to 50,000 people, and is working to prepare for the rapid setup of treatment facilities if the camp is hit by an outbreak.
Notes to editors
Interviews with spokespeople in Haiti are available.
For more information on the British Red Cross please visit: http://www.redcross.org.uk
Contact: Laura Hinks or Becky Webb
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