Few storms overwhelmed the headlines as Hurricane Sandy did in late October. It evolved from tropical storm in the Caribbean, where it swept over low-lying islands such as Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas. Those counties were the first affected by Sandy’s growing winds and heavy rains. So far, nearly 60 people have been reported dead as a result of the storm power. The storm then moved north, grazing the coast of Florida and then colliding headfirst with New York and New Jersey.
Haiti was among the first southern islands struck by the storm. Rains from the storm began hammering the small island on Tuesday and continued nonstop throughout the week. Panicked residents sought higher ground out of fear of flooding. “If the river busts its banks, it’s going to create a lot of problems. It might kill a lot of people,” said one Haitian official. “If death comes, we’ll accept it. We’re suffering, we’re hungry, and we’re just going to die hungry.”
Since the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, many Haitians live in small, modest homes made of delicate materials. This made the threats of high winds and torrential flooding even more hazardous for the Haitians. Over 17,000 people had to abandon their homes and seek shelter. By Saturday, the death toll in Haiti reached 44, while 12 more people remained missing. Heavy flooding was to blame for at least on 10-year-old child’s death; the boy was swept away in turbulent river.
Jamaica was another island directly hit by the storm. The high winds and heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding, which cut off roads and peoples escape routes. At least one man was killed in Jamaica during the storm when heavy winds sent a boulder into his home, crushing him.
Cuba was the next Caribbean island to be struck head on by the storm. By the time it was hit on Thursday, Hurricane Sandy had reached Category 2 status. Several thousand homes took on heavy wind damage, and another 30,000 had their roofs damaged. Crops, including banana, coffee, and sugarcane, were damaged in the storm as well.
Hurricane Sandy struck the Bahamas next. Torrential rains flooded the roads and heavy winds caused destruction, throwing over trees and telephone poles and damaging the exteriors of homes. The storm passed on, hitting Puerto Rico, where it killed at least one 50-year-old man on Friday. Reports say he was carried off in a flooding river. Over 100 families were evacuated during the storms torment.
The storm then crashed into the Dominican Republic, where over 18,000 people were forced to flee their homes and seek shelter. As the storm passed over the island, it wreaked havoc, damaging over 3,000 houses.
Following the storm, thousands of people on islands in the Caribbean were left without homes, food, supplies and power. Swollen rivers left families isolated in remote areas. “It’s wet all my clothes, and all the children aren’t living well,” on victim in Haiti told reporters. “We’re hungry. We haven’t received any food. If we had a shelter, that would be nice.” Now that the storm has passed, a massive cleanup project has begun; no doubt it will take weeks or even months before these people will be able to enjoy a degree of normalcy.