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Haiti, Cuba lashed by Hurricane Matthew

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP) — Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc in Haiti and Cuba Oct. 4, destroying homes, fields and businesses and driving thousands from their homes in a part of the Caribbean where many people already struggle day by day just to survive.

Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist humanitarian organization, is monitoring the situation in both countries to determine what response might be most appropriate and effective.

In Haiti, “multiple organizations already were on the ground in the country before the storm struck, and they will administer a large amount of assistance after this disaster,” said a statement posted on the group’s website, gobgr.org. “Unfortunately, when too many organizations respond to situations like this, response efforts can overlap and became inefficient. BGR is monitoring Haiti but has not yet committed significant resources to the area due to the number of organizations already involved.”

Winds of 145 mph lashed Haiti, along with heavy rain and dangerous storm surges, the BBC reported. Communications systems are down in the hardest-hit areas, roads are blocked and the bridge connecting the capital, Port-au-Prince, to the southern part of the country collapsed, making rescue and relief efforts much more difficult.

At least 10,000 people reportedly have taken refuge in shelters.

BGR also is monitoring the situation in Cuba, where damage from the hurricane apparently is not as severe.

“The Cuban government traditionally has made extensive efforts to cope with hurricanes, provide for the safety of its residents and secure protection for property,” the BGR statement said. “BGR has trained teams in eastern Cuba. However, the storm has damaged communications to and from these countries. We expect to hear about pockets of significant devastation, but this doesn’t mean the damage is widespread.”

The storm has contributed to at least 11 deaths, including five in Haiti, according to weather.com. United Nations relief officials told reporters Haiti is facing the “largest humanitarian event” since a 7.3-magnitude earthquake in 2010, with more than 4 million children in danger from storm-related problems like waterborne disease. The deluge of rain raises the specter of mudslides that would destroy flimsy houses erected on hillsides.

The hurricane is now moving toward Florida and coastal South Carolina, where emergency networks have been activated and many residents are evacuating. Matthew is moving through the Bahamas and is expected to come ashore in the US the evening of Oct. 6.

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  • Mark Kelly