Heifer Haiti staff OK after floodwaters overrrun Les Cayes

MARCH 1, 2010 – Heifer International staff in Les Cayes, Haiti, working to support other organizations’ humanitarian efforts in the wake of the January earthquake and to assess the needs of thousands of affected Heifer project partner families, were dealt another setback Saturday when the area was struck by floodwaters measuring more than 60 inches.

The situation is grave ... whole areas are completely flooded,” local senator Francky Exius told AFP news agency. Les Cayes was largely unaffected by the earthquake, but had become a destination for many of the families fleeing the capital city of Port-au-Price, the epicenter of the January earthquake, and Heifer Haiti staff have been helping provide transportation, water and food to nearly 2,000 injured and displaced families.

Justin Alcé, Heifer’s interim country director in Haiti, reported Monday that Heifer staff and their families in Les Cayes are safe, and that the local Heifer office did not suffer any damage from the flooding. E-mail is slowly being restored and phone lines are working. Les Cayes lies on a peninsula 100 miles south and west of Port-au-Prince. The four Heifer staff members in Les Cayes were working with families in eight active Heifer projects in the area before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck.

Floodwaters from Saturday’s rains killed at least 13 people in Les Cayes and surrounding areas, and forced more than 3,000 to evacuate. Roads, crops, buildings and homes have been damaged, and there are reports of mudslides.

The weekend’s heavy rains arrived several weeks ahead of Haiti’s traditional rainy season, which is expected to further slow and challenge earthquake recovery efforts as well as make life more difficult for the hundreds of thousands who face the elements with no shelter or, at most, a tent or temporary structure.

Heifer team members, from Haiti and the international headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., are planning a field visit the week of March 15 to survey affected project communities. Assessment findings will be used to direct Heifer’s recovery and rehabilitation efforts in Haiti.

Further reports will be issued as information warrants.