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Friday, August 24, 2007

Hurricane Dean Aftermath in Port Morant

Finally an accurate report of the Hurricane Dean Aftermath in Port Morant area!

Audrey in Port Morant borrowed her husband’s cell phone to call today. Following is her report:

The damage in the area was very bad. She said this was a very bad hurricane. Many roofs were lost. The area is expected to be without electricity for more than a week longer. The water came on for a very short time this morning, but then was off the rest of the day and is unclean and has to be boiled.

The Seaside community was severely damaged. All the homes there received severe damage from water and most lost their roofs. Some homes were mostly destroyed. 22 adults and 23 children from the Seaside community took refuge in the Fellowship Hall of the Port Morant Methodist Church – a structure we helped construct in 2001. After the hurricane past, they went back to their village to see the severe destruction. Audrey says they lost most of their personal possessions. They are trying to scavenge the zinc (we would call it tin roofing) and nail it back in place. Most of the wood siding (largely plywood) was lost from the homes. They are trying to nail what they can find back.

She also said that food is a serious problem. She and Sharon went yesterday and today to Morant Bay to buy food. Apparently there are long lines at the food stores and a shortage of sugar, rice, and flour. The stores are rationing it. Tonight, she and June are returning to try to buy more food. They are using the food for the Seaside community and others who are suffering. Apparently, food is a big problem. Also we would suspect that the mangoes and other fruits are damaged as well. She did say that many of the trees are down.

Also, zinc is in short supply and cannot be obtained. This will greatly hinder reconstruction. We would suspect other building materials would be in short supply also.

Morant Bay, the largest town and government seat of the province, just received power today. Yesterday, the nurses at the hospital there had a demonstration in the street to draw attention to the fact that they still had no electricity or water.

As severe as the damage was, Audrey tells of only one death in the St. Thomas province. That was a 14 year old girl in the Whitehorses area. Apparently there were concrete blocks placed on the roof of her house to hold down the zinc. The zinc blew off and the concrete block fell and hit the girl in the head. Her family tried to get her to the hospital, but could not because of the water washing out the road. They took her back to Whitehorses Methodist Church (another one of our previous work sites) where she died.

We had previously sent money to Audrey just before the storm to help the Seaside children with school expenses. I told her to use the money to relieve suffering any way she could. She has told the people of Seaside we were praying for them and that we were helping buy the food for them. She said they expressed a lot of gratitude to us.

We talked about coming back and helping with the housing in Seaside. We discussed the relocation of the community, but land availability may be a major issue. They are squatting on this land. Also, it is a fishing community and Audrey said all the boats were smashed. So, not only did these people lose most of their homes and possessions, but their meager livelihood as well.

These people will not have the luxury of FEMA trailers, gift cards, or government assistance. Right now, they need zinc, plywood, food, and clean water. Once they get these necessities, they will need boats.

One other interesting side note – on previous trips, we built two plywood homes with zinc roofs - Stephen’s house and Valerie’s house. Stephen and his three children rode the hurricane out in his house. I talked to his daughter who said it had no damage, but it did leak. Audrey said it had absolutely no damage. Valerie and her daughter started out in her house, but apparently it started shaking violently so they went next door to a masonry structure. Audrey said it was amazing, but there was no damage to either house. I told her that was a miracle. She said it was because God had built those houses. I told her “Yes, God and a couple of fools”.

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Stephen's house upon completion in 2004

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Valerie's house upon completion in 2005