Tuesday 17 October 2017

'It was like a bad dream' – Irishman in Haiti during Hurricane Matthew describes devastation

Damien Meaney (37) has been working in Haiti with the Haven Partnership for over five years
Damien Meaney (37) has been working in Haiti with the Haven Partnership for over five years
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

An Irish aid worker in Haiti has described the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew as “heart-breaking”.

Damien Meaney (37) has been working in Haiti with the Haven Partnership for over five years and says it is difficult to see the people of Haiti try to overcome another disaster.

Last week, torrential rain battered the country and caused more destruction, with some parts being submerged in four metres of water. 

“To see the people of Haiti be knocked back down again, it is so heart-breaking. Every time they get a break, something seems to happen. It is hard, yes, but they are amazing people and you always see them rally around each other,” he told Independent.ie.

Hurricane Matthew left more than 1,000 people dead and destroyed thousands of homes when it struck at the beginning of October.

Before the hurricane hit, Damien had been working to provide agricultural training to locals, whilst also carrying out building work on homes.

But now, it is a case of damage limitation.

“It was horrendous.  At the moment, it is about getting food security and trying to get shelter back. The strength and the power of the hurricane was unbelievable. It just seemed to go on forever. The wind and rain kept intensifying and we didn’t see the light of day for hours,” he said.

“We were warned that the hurricane was coming and we knew it was going to be fairly strong. On the Monday, we moved people living near the water level up to secure schools and churches. A lot of the houses cannot withstand that kind of water and wind damage.”

During the storm, Damien had six families in his room. Their houses were torn apart and they all huddled into a corner as they waited for the storm to pass.

“The winds were so strong. Rain was lashing into the room as the windows all broke – I could feel the walls moving.

“People are trying to salvage what is left at the moment. Their coconut trees, their mangos, their livestock, a lot of that was lost and devastated.”

The Wicklow man admits that it was tough seeing a lot of their hard work come undone, but says they will continue to do what they can for the people of Haiti.

“They call it the Haiti bug, when you come here once, you will end up coming back.

“There’s been lots of support for the organisation. It is like everything, the Irish people are very generous. We are working to try get the schools back open and the medical centre fixed, so people can get back to their normal lives,” he said.

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