NAPLES, Fla. - Catholic agencies were working Aug. 27 to
assess damage in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac's pass
over the Caribbean, where at least 24 people died and tens of
thousands were evacuated.
The storm left widespread flooding and wind damage in Cuba
and Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic
and Haiti, before turning north toward the U.S. Gulf Coast,
where it was expected to make landfall Aug. 28.
The islands largely escaped a direct hit, however, as the
storm's center passed south of Hispaniola before scraping the
northwest coast of Cuba.
"The rains were heavy at times and the winds were strong, but
it didn't have the force of a hurricane," said Lorenzo
Garcia-Troncoso, director of Caritas Dominican Republic.
On Aug. 27, officials in Haiti upped the death toll there to
19, reflecting the vulnerability of a country still
recovering from the 2010 earthquake. Some 421,000 Haitians
still live in tents and tarp-covered shacks.
"For thousands of families, Isaac is still a horrible ordeal.
I saw busloads of children without parents still arriving at
shelters and heard from a woman who lost her child as they
ran, terrified, from their flooded home in the middle of the
night," said Stephania Musset, a spokeswoman for Oxfam, a
humanitarian group working in the country.
Haiti's Civil Protection Office reported six more people were
missing and that 335 homes had been destroyed. Officials
evacuated roughly 15,000 people, the office said.
Catholic agencies were collecting information from various
dioceses around the country. Damage appeared to be heaviest
in the Southeast department.
Church officials planned to meet Aug. 27 to determine how to
respond, a spokesman for Caritas Haiti said by telephone.
Groups had not launched a formal appeal for emergency
assistance, but aid groups feared the storm could leave
conditions ripe for the spread of cholera, a disease that has
killed more than 7,500 in the past two years.
Cholera posed the most pressing concern for staff members of
the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services; they fanned
across southern portions of the country to assess the
condition of the network of cholera treatment centers the
A CRS spokeswoman said that while damage appeared to be less
severe than expected, two cholera treatment centers in the
capital of Port-au-Prince were hit. The centers must be able
to handle the expected influx of victims contracting the
water-borne disease so that early treatment will prevent
deaths and limit the spread of the illness.
CRS staff reported that the damage and flooding appeared to
be most severe in the Southeast department, with the numerous
homes in the communities of Bainet, Jacmel and Kay Jacmel
Flooding was reported in some neighborhoods of the capital of
Port-au-Prince. The CRS spokeswoman said some temporary
shelters the agency funded after the January 2010 earthquake
were damaged by Isaac's 60-mph winds.
In neighboring Dominican Republic, two people died after
being swept away by a river raging with rainfall from the
storm. Emergency officials in that country said at least
three other died and nearly 13,000 people had fled their
Cuban officials reported some 25,000 evacuees and minor
damage to infrastructure, according to news sources.
Garcia said Caritas and several Catholic dioceses were
working with Dominican farmers who had lost banana and
"Compared to what we were expecting initially, the damage was
far more minor," he said.