More Than 50 Dead In Haiti As U.S. Braces For Sandy

(Photo: Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images)

While U.S. media coverage today will focus on the impact Hurricane Sandy will have in the states and on the coming election, the storm has already ravaged locations throughout the Caribbean. The majority of the 65 reported deaths came from Haiti, where over fifty were reported killed by rampant flooding.

Rains finally abated there after pummeling the island since Friday:

As the rains stopped and rivers began to recede, authorities were getting a fuller idea of how much damage Sandy brought on Haiti. Bridges collapsed. Banana crops were ruined. Homes were underwater. Officials said the death toll might still rise.

“This is a disaster of major proportions,” Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told The Associated Press, adding with a touch of hyperbole, “The whole south is under water.”

Tropical storms and hurricanes have so far this year killed more and done greater comparable damage to island nations than they have once reaching the United States. Hurricane Issac, at the time a tropical storm, killed 29 in Haiti in August, compared to six deaths in the U.S. from the same storm system.

These storms can prove more devastating to Haiti and the surrounding states, despite often gaining strength as they move north, due to lower level of infrastructure development and mass deforestation. The amount of trees cleared to use in building shelters, cook-fires, and farm land wipes out natural barriers to flooding and landslides. Adding to the problem, hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tents and make-shift shelters as part of the ongoing aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

While the United States pledged billions to help rebuild Haiti following the earthquake, the effect of what money has been delivered is lacking, and has done little the strengthen the island’s ability to weather hurricanes. Recent cuts of $8 billion dollars to international development funding by Congress is also unlikely to help Haiti and other states’ resilience against natural disasters in the future.