In Haiti, corpse in street, no aid; anger grows in hurricane-hit town

CAVAILLON, Haiti (Reuters) - A lifeless body caked in blood and mud lies in the street for days, and promised food and water supplies fail to materialize. Desperation turned to anger in southwest Haiti on Thursday as residents grappled with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

A motorcyclist rides past a destroyed church after Hurricane Matthew passed Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Dozens of men and women in the town of Cavaillon gathered by the corpse, which they said washed up when a river burst its banks as the hurricane hit on Tuesday. The male victim was one of at least 261 storm deaths in Haiti.

“There is a man on the road. The state is not taking its responsibility,” said Ashley Dody, a resident of Cavaillon, which was cut off by flood waters until Thursday, leaving locals with little food or drinking water.

“Where is the Haitian government, where are they?” one woman yelled. One man shouted, “We are hungry now” as the town mayor tried to calm tempers and peacekeepers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti looked on.

The hurricane hit Cavaillon with winds up to 145 mph (230 kph) at about midnight on Monday, but it wasn’t until the next afternoon that flood waters forced people to seek higher ground in the hills behind the town, said resident Roosevelt Esperance.

Into the night, men from the town helped women and children cross roads that had turned into raging brown rivers.

When they came down on Wednesday morning they found destruction. Houses in the town have been reduced to rubble. In one, a television and stereo system could be seen poking through chunks of concrete and thick mud, along with a suitcase full of sodden school books.

“Water, food, clothing for people in dire need, we need all of that,” said Esperance, who said he found the unidentified body. “He came to seek shelter in the mountains like everyone else, but he fell.”

Nine people died in the town, including at least three children, the mayor said. In the distance, a coffin for another victim was carried away.


The reach of the state is minimal in much of Haiti, and in the absence of help from authorities, people turn to each other.

Along the coast from Cavaillon, the sleepy fishing village of Torbech was heavily damaged by Matthew. Many people tried to ride out the storm at home when the village’s only shelter filled up but fled when trees and surging seas crushed their huts and houses.

With nowhere else to go, some 200 of them arrived amid howling winds and lashing rain at Villa Mimosa, an upscale resort run by former government minister Mimose Felix.

Teacher Juditte Destin grabbed her three kids and ran to the hotel at 4 a.m. on Tuesday when a tree fell on her home.

“The madame gives us food, water and a place to sleep,” said Destin, whose school was also destroyed in the storm.

But even in the relative comfort of the hotel, the lack of government support was pressing. Felix said she had run out of food to give to her unexpected guests.

“Before it was like an oasis, it was heaven. I called it the oasis of the south,” Felix said, surveying the broken walls and fallen trees, and her swimming pool, now a swampy green.

Among those at the hotel, heavily pregnant Emma Etienne was due to have a cesarean section at a local hospital, other women said, but she was turned away after the storm.

Wearing just a night gown and no shoes, Etienne groaned and grimaced in the agony of labor, and a natural birth would be dangerous for her, friends said.

But many doctors have not returned to hospitals in Les Cayes, the nearest town, since the storm, and no easy solution was in sight for her.

Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Simon Gardner and Cynthia Osterman