Hurricane Matthew Makes Landfall In Haiti
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Hurricane Mathew made landfall today in Haiti, and the fear is that it could leave the impoverished country devastated again. Haiti has never recovered from the earthquake in 2010 and the cholera epidemic that began soon after.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The southwestern tip of Haiti is the area most seriously hit. When Matthew made landfall this morning, it was with 145-mile-per-hour winds. There were reports of roofs being ripped off of homes and uprooted trees.
MCEVERS: Earlier today we reached Joanna Cherry. She's chief medical officer at Hospital Bernard Mevs in Port au Prince. She says it's been difficult to get information about what's happening in southwest.
JOANNA CHERRY: These areas are at sea level. They have hospitals in their areas, and they have housing in their areas. But they don't have the infrastructure of a bigger city. I know that so far they've reported flooding, building damage, and there are some reports of deaths, but it's not known how many at this time.
MCEVERS: Is your hospital preparing to take patients there in Port au Prince from other parts of the country like this one?
CHERRY: So our primary focus for the next day will be the patients in the local area. This is because right now it's unlikely that we'll be able to get transport in for at least another 24 hours. We're expecting to have injuries secondary to debris, to accidents and possibly to electrocutions if a lot of power cables come down.
CHERRY: What all are you doing to prepare for that?
CHERRY: So we have a plan. We've been securing the hospital to avoid debris. We've been sorting food and water for our staff and patients, been working on communication. We have walkie-talkies in place because we're pretty sure that phone communications are going to go down soon. We've got an exceptional team here, and we're basically ready to go.
MCEVERS: You've been in Haiti since the earthquake, and you've dealt with a cholera epidemic that followed that. What's it been like over the last several years there?
CHERRY: So I can tell you that cholera's a very serious disease. People are very unwell very quickly, and they're very hard to treat by the time they can get to a hospital. I myself work in trauma here in Port au Prince, and we see a lot of traumatic problems here, but cholera is something that really shook all of us up.
Unfortunately cholera's endemic in the country now, so any time you have an increase in rain, you will have an increase in cholera. I feel like we're looking at a potential humanitarian disaster just from the infectious disease outbreak that could come from this volume of water.
MCEVERS: I guess for people who don't know exactly, could you just explain how massive flooding and rains could spark an increase in infectious diseases like you described?
CHERRY: OK, so those of us that come from more developed countries are used to having sanitation, sewage systems, irrigation to avoid flooding. Unfortunately we don't have the luxury of that across Haiti. So what happens is that you get a mixture of water and sewage which spreads across highly populated areas.
CHERRY: So people have a very high risk of catching these diseases through no fault of their own because the water is passing through areas that they live in, that they work in, that they prepare their food. So it's a very high-risk situation here right now.
MCEVERS: Joanna Cherry is chief medical officer at Hospital Bernard Mevs in Port au Prince. She works with the organization Project Medishare. Thank you so much for your time, and be safe.
CHERRY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.