Floods wipe out Caribbean crops

By Evens Sanon

Haiti and Jamaica count the cost of the storm after it swept over their countries

Hurricane Sandy destroyed 70 per cent of the crops in southern Haiti and caused widespread deaths of livestock, while in neighbouring Jamaica it left at least US$16.5 million ($20 million) worth of damage in its wake.

A Haitian Ministry of Agriculture official said the Government had not yet put a dollar figure on the losses. But he said many poor farmers would have no food because of the hurricane's extensive damage. Damaged crops include avocados, bread fruit, corn and some vetiver, a grass that produces a fragrant oil used in perfumes.

The eye of Hurricane Sandy passed west of Haiti last Thursday. But its rain-heavy outer bands dumped more than 50cm of rain in 24 hours on the southern coastal town of Les Cayes and the surrounding countryside, causing rivers to overflow. Haiti has reported 52 deaths, the most of any Caribbean country by far. Officials reported flooding across the country, where roughly 370,000 people are still living in flimsy shelters as a result of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Aid agencies have already reported 86 new cases of cholera.

In Jamaica, where Sandy's centre made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane and killed one man, the economic toll of the storm was at least US$16.5 million, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said.

The preliminary assessment includes damage to livestock, peppers, coconuts, bananas, and the island's Blue Mountain coffee, one of the world's most valuable coffee brands.

The country's tourist resorts were not badly impacted and Jamaica "remains open for business", Simpson Miller stressed.

Although teams were still assessing the damage left by Sandy, Simpson Miller said 71 houses had been found totally destroyed and 348 were severely damaged.

In Cuba, Sandy was the deadliest storm in seven years, killing 11 people and ripping rooftops from homes and toppling power lines.

Much of the damage was in Santiago, the second-largest city. President Raul Castro has warned of a long road to recovery.

Sandy also slammed the Bahamas, where two people were killed and numerous homes in Grand Bahama, Cat Island and Exuma were flooded.

- AP, Independent

Sandy in the Caribbean

Haiti: Sandy did not directly hit Haiti but it brought several days of downpours, causing rivers to overrun their banks across much of southern Haiti. Officials say as much as 70 per cent of crops were destroyed in some areas. The official death toll was 52.

Cuba: Officials say the storm killed 11 people, including an infant, damaged more than 130,000 homes and destroyed about 15,000 in the east.

Jamaica: An elderly man died when a boulder rolled on to his property and crushed him as the eye of Sandy travelled over eastern Jamaica. Officials say floodwaters and winds flattened farms, destroyed 71 houses and severely damaged 348 more. The Government has put the early price tag at US$16.5 million ($20 million).

Bahamas: Police say the then-hurricane apparently killed two people, including a bank chief executive who fell from his roof while he was trying to repair a window shutter as Sandy approached last week. Numerous homes were flooded.

Dominican Republic: Two young men drowned while trying to cross rivers in separate incidents. Nearly 30,000 people were evacuated because of widespread flooding in the south, including parts of the capital.

Puerto Rico: The United States island territory was spared a direct hit but heavy rains caused flooding. One death was reported, a man who was swept away in a rain-swollen river near the southern town of Juana Diaz.

- AP

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