Haiti Flooding Q&A

Catholic Relief Services Haiti staffer Olivia Dumoulin was visiting Gonaives when torrential rains from Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Hanna flooded the streets. In one case, flooding trapped the bishop of Gonaives along with 500 people in the bishop’s house.

An aerial view of people leaving town after floods is seen in Gonaives September 3, 2008. Reuters/Marco Dormino, courtesy www.alertnet.org

“There was no food, water or electricity for three days,” says Dumoulin, who is based in Port-au-Prince. The town of Gonaives made international headlines exactly four years ago when Tropical Storm Jeanne unleashed torrential rains, landslides and flooding that killed 3,000 people. Thousands of others were left homeless. According to Dumoulin’s firsthand accounts, flooding from Gustav and Hanna was more severe than in 2004. The magnitude of damage, however, is still unknown.

Dumoulin is a pharmacist who works with CRS’ AIDSRelief projects. With knowledge of the area’s medical needs, she is helping to set up a medical camp. She is currently at a United Nations base in Gonaives. She describes the desperate scene on the ground.

Catholic Relief Services:
How did residents respond to the floods?

Olivia Dumoulin:

Everybody was looking for food at first but there was nothing. Many residents took it upon themselves to head for higher ground—packing up whatever they could and heading for the mountains. With images of Hurricane Mitch [in 2004] still seared in their memories, people knew to hurry up and take their stuff and get out.

Dozens of residents—mostly those stranded on their rooftops—died when the torrential rains bore down.

How severe is the damage?


Throughout the town, houses now have no walls and cars and ambulances have floated away. The roads are really destroyed. As far as the hospital in Gonaives, everything that was built back from two years ago was destroyed.

The hospital director is transferring medicine and equipment from the hospital to temporary first aid camps.

Are parts of the city still flooded?


Much of the water has receded in the center of town, but there’s still remaining floodwater in the area that surrounds the town, making it impossible for relief vehicles to pass through. People have to be evacuated from the area by helicopter.

– Q&A by Kai Hill

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