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Haitians left homeless by 7.2 magnitude earthquake now brace for storm

An earthquake Saturday brought devastation to Haiti. Landslides have made major roads impassable for aid groups. Hospitals in southern Haiti are overwhelmed and thousands are sheltering in the streets or on soccer fields. Tropical depression Grace could trigger flash flooding and landslides. William Brangham speaks to Akim Kikonda, the Haiti country representative for Catholic Relief Services.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we have been reporting, an earthquake has brought new devastation to Haiti. Landslides have made major roads impassable for aid groups.

    Now hospitals in Southern Haiti are overwhelmed and forced to turn people away, all as a tropical storm bears down on the nation.

    William Brangham has the latest.

  • William Brangham:

    Judy, Saturday's earthquake occurred on the very same fault lines as the 2010 earthquake that killed 300,000 people and destroyed much of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

    Today, thousands are sheltering in the streets or on soccer fields with the very few belongings they could salvage from their homes. Haitian authorities are still going door to door searching for survivors. And the suffering could get worse later today, because Tropical Depression Grace is expected to dump roughly 10 inches of rain on the country, which could trigger flash flood flooding and landslides.

    Akim Kikonda is the Haiti country representative for Catholic Relief Services, and he joins us from Port-au-Prince.

    Mr. Kikonda, very good to have you on the "NewsHour."

    I understand that you have staff in Les Cayes, which is the big city that was closest to the epicenter of this quake. Can you just give us a sense of what kinds of things they are seeing now? How bad is it there?

  • Akim Kikonda:

    Yes, thanks, William.

    So, the team is reporting a severely damaged and destroyed city in Cayes. So, they are reporting houses that have been totally or partially destroyed, schools and churches and hotels, and even road infrastructure that has been severely impacted.

    So, the situation is really bad. And in terms of the population, they are suffering, really a lot from the lack of everything. They have lost their houses. They don't have drinking water. They don't have food. They lack everything.

    So, the situation is really, really bad in Cayes right now.

  • William Brangham:

    We have been hearing reports of a growing death toll. And, certainly, authorities are trying to find people who might still be living.

    Do you have a sense of the medical needs? Are hospitals able to be open and help the wounded right now?

  • Akim Kikonda:

    Yes, so the few hospitals that are still up and running have been overwhelmed, due to the number of injuries.

    The search-and-rescue teams are still working, as you say, going through the rubbles and trying to find any survivors, if there are still any, or pull dead bodies from those rubbles.

  • William Brangham:

    And is it your sense, just from the most pressing needs from a humanitarian point of view, is it? Is it food? Is it shelter? Is it tents? What's the most pressing thing that you all need to do your jobs.

  • Akim Kikonda:

    I would put shelter in the first place.

    People have lost their homes. And those that are still standing have become unstable because of cracks in the walls and those kinds of things. And we have a storm hitting Haiti today — actually, it has started — and tomorrow. So, people are exposed to the elements. So, shelter is a really pressing need.

    The second most pressing need would be for water and hygiene items just to ensure that we control COVID and we also prevent some waterborne and transmittable diseases.

    And, thirdly, I would say food would be a very important and urgent need to meet, because people have lost everything. And we need to ensure that at least they have food to put on the table.

  • William Brangham:

    We know that, in the midst of all of this, Haiti is, of course, also dealing with the vacuum created by the assassination of President Moise.

    Is it your sense that the government is able to organize as effective a response as it can, given the leadership vacuum, given the devastation?

  • Akim Kikonda:

    Yes, actually, as you know, Haiti has been dealing with emergencies of this kind for quite some time.

    So, they have really — the government has really developed skills and capacities. The civil protection authority has a team that is doing its best to coordinate the efforts of all humanitarians, trying to ensure that we avoid a repeat of what happened in 2010, when you had thousands of organizations coming from everywhere, and dumping all kinds of shipments on the airport tarmac, with very little coordination.

    So, the government is trying to ensure that we avoid those kinds of disasters this time around. All in all, I would say the government is doing a good job supporting the humanitarian response.

  • William Brangham:

    Well, that's good news in the midst of certainly a very awful tragedy.

    Akim Kikonda, thank you very much for being with us from Catholic Relief Services.

  • Akim Kikonda:

    Thank you, William, for having me.

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