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International aid agency Concern Worldwide has said Hurricane Irma will be a crippling blow to Haiti, a country still recovering from the effects of last year’s Hurricane Matthew.
The deadly Category 5 storm is due to impact the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere this evening (between 2pm-4pm Haiti time) with 20 foot waves expected in coastal regions, north of the country.
Over the last few days, government and local authorities have been supporting communities prepare for Irma by urging them to move away from coastal areas and to ensure they have basic emergency supplies, such as food, drinking water and shelter.
The Irish NGO said areas of Haiti are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Matthew last October, which devastated the country and killed hundreds, and people are fearing the worst as the latest storm hits.
Speaking from Haiti, Concern’s Logistics Coordinator, Gillian Boyle, said:
Haitians just rebuilt their lives after Hurricane Matthew and now they have to prepare for Irma. All their hard work will come undone and they will be left with nothing again.
The Haitian government has taken steps to evacuate people and they have made preparations to ensure people are in safe locations and that they have basic supplies.
All Concern staff will go into lockdown once Irma strikes and will immediately start the recovery operation and assess the damage after it passes.
The Co. Longford aid worker added:
On La Gonave island off the west coast, the local authorities have urged people to move inland as waves of up to 20 feet high have already been reported in areas where the storm hit. There is a huge risk of mudslides due to heavy rains and winds. Low lying areas are extremely vulnerable and waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are always a fear.
Concern’s Director of International Programmes, Anne O’Mahony, said there are fears that Irma will be followed almost immediately by Hurricane Jose, which is also hurtling through the Caribbean.
In any situation like this, it is the poorest who always suffer. Haiti has been hit by major earthquakes in the past and wave after wave of hurricanes year after year. As Hurricane Irma approaches, Hurricane Jose is on its heels and there will be no time to prepare.
Haiti, which is a third the size of Ireland with a population of over 10 million people, was also impacted by a devastating earthquake in 2010, which killed over 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.