Hurricane Laura brings hardship to Caribbean, Gulf Coast

Hurricane Harvey taken from NOAA GOES satellite on Aug 25 at 10 am in Texas Credit NASA NOAA GOES Project CNA NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

Hurricane Laura caused flooding in several Caribbean territories over the weekend, killing at least 24 people and causing thousands to be without utilities. The storm is now approaching Texas and Louisiana.

The storm first approached the Caribbean Aug. 23 and has killed at least 20 people in Haiti, and three in the Dominican Republic.

Nikki Gamer, media relations manager for Catholic Relief Services, told CNA that while the specifics of the storm's damages have not yet been evaluated, the victims in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico will be needing more help with basic necessities.

"We're just beginning to understand the impacts of the latest storm, but what we do know is that whatever the damage, it will be yet more terrible news for the people of Haiti," CRS' Haiti country representative Chris Bessey stated.

"In recent years, they've dealt with a prolonged economic downturn, drought, worsening food insecurity, political upheaval, COVID-19, and now a devastating storm. Yes - the Haitian people are resilient. But that doesn't diminish the fact that communities here are struggling under tremendous hardships."

The storm knocked out power for more than 1 million people in the Dominican Republic and, while utilities had been restored to 400,000 people earlier this week, tens of thousands of people were still without power Aug. 24.

The flooding has collapsed several homes in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. It also forced more than 1,000 people to be evacuated across the country and cut off road access to over 120 isolated communities.

In Puerto Rico, the storm brought 67 mph gusts of wind and dumped 3 to 6 inches of rain in the territory's southern and eastern regions.

Cuba and Jamaica were also affected.

Bessey expressed concern that the storm would also heavily damage farms and further aggravate food problems in Haiti. He said that prior to the storm, CRS had already been providing basic necessities to families struggling from the pandemic and would further assess additional needs following the storm.

"We're especially alarmed by reports that the storm has caused widespread damage to agricultural lands in the hardest-hit areas, which likely means that hunger will continue to get worse," said Bessey.
"When COVID-19 hit, CRS was already supporting the most vulnerable families to manage the growing food insecurity. In fact, we quickly adjusted our activities to be COVID-safe while providing cash to families as well as information on healthy foods that they can purchase locally, which helps build up the economy. This experience and understanding of community priorities and ongoing work has given us the flexibility to assess the additional needs following the storm."

The storm is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border in the early hours of Aug. 27. More than a half million people in the coastal areas of the two states have been ordered to evacuate.

The National Hurricane Center has said that "large and destructive waves" will be life threatening and may cause flooding up to 30 miles inland.

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