JACMEL, Haiti -- Before setting its sights on Cuba and South Florida, Tropical Storm Isaac left at least eight Haitians dead and cut a path of destruction through Jacmel and other southeastern Haitian cities, toppling billboards, partially collapsing roads and burying blown over fruit trees in muddy flood waters.
Residents in this lush, seaside village remained without power and cut off from neighboring mountain hamlets Sunday as the rains from Isaac finally subsided.
“Look at it,” farmer Estlange Cherry, 21, said pointing to his family farm where his father in-law was clearing away fallen plantain and breadfruit trees. “Everything is gone. We weren’t able to save not one tree. The flood waters from the river even took our pregnant goat.”
In rural Haiti, livestock is cash in the bank and farmers’ harvests are often the only income, used to send children to school, buy medication and for food.
In addition to the loss of crops, residents in rural Jacmel remained cut off from others in neighboring mountain towns. The Fesles Marigot Grand River washed away a huge chunk of a road bridging Jacmel and several mountaintop villages.
“This is something that is terrible,” resident Bellande Sanon said, standing on the river’s edge as public buses, known as Tap Taps, were forced to turn back. “Every area on the other side of this river will suffer. These are the areas that provide the most food in the region. Now, hunger will increase.”
In 2008, after four back-to-back storms battered Haiti and the river cut off access to villages dozens, of children became malnourished and some even died.
“Every time government authorities opt not to address the problems of this river, the region will suffer,” Sanon said.
George Ngwa, communications manager for the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the southeastern region received the brunt of the storm and farmers have lost beans, plantains and other crops.
“Coming after the drought in the north, we are worried it’s likely to have a negative impact on food security,” he said.