Tomas Puts Haiti on Red Alert

Today, Haiti officially went on red alert—not for the cholera outbreak apparently imported by Haiti’s UN peacekeeping force, MINUSTAH—which a lot of Haitians already don’t love—but because of tropical storm Tomas. 

The late-season storm is projected to intensify into a hurricane and make landfall on Friday, with winds and rains beginning today, and authorities are warning people that they may have to evacuate. They are not, however, telling them where they all might evacuate to, since a million people already live under little more than plastic sheets after January’s devastating earthquake. 

A series of hurricanes in pre-quake 2008 Haiti killed 800 people. This weekend, Tomas killed at least 14 people in fully functioning St. Lucia. Read how many people in Port-au-Prince died when it rained for 10 minutes when I was there in September. Aid groups and the UN are scrambling for extra supplies like rope and tarp, but there’s little they can do for the ultravulnerable in the camps. 

One of my new Haitian friends made fun of me when I texted him yesterday expressing concern for his well-being, texting back that he’d be fine: he’d gotten an extra case of vodka. He lives in a house in the mountains like the rest of the wealthy, but is well aware of the conditions in the displacement camps. And every light shower knocked out the power at even my fancy hotel during my two weeks. Still, my friend said, “Come on, you guys need to lighten up”—”you guys” being Americans and/or the media, I guess. I do hope he’s right that we’re getting all worked up over nothing. But I have my grave doubts.