Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 8:08 AM

Hurricane Matthew

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I appreciate your inquiries about how my family and friends in the Caribbean weathered Matthew. Even though proverbial sitting ducks, they all hunkered down, and we all prayed for the best.

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Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into the Bahamas early on Thursday and intensified as it barreled toward the southeastern U.S. coast where millions of residents heeded warnings to flee inland…

Matthew, which killed at least [350] people and displaced thousands, mostly in southern Haiti, was predicted to strengthen from a Category 3 to 4 storm [with winds over 150 mph] en route to Florida’s Atlantic coast…

On Tuesday and Wednesday it whipped Cuba and Haiti with 140 mph (225 kph) winds and torrential rain, pummeling towns and destroying livestock, crops and homes.

(Reuters, October 6, 2016)

Foremost, I’m happy to report that none of my family and friends suffered any physical harm. In fact, as of this morning, there were no reported deaths in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, where my family members reside.

But many of them sustained costly flood and wind damage. Not to mention that all of them are now coping without electricity.

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That said, I could not help breaking out in gallows laughter when a concerned American friend asked if they ever received evacuation orders.

Her concern coincided with governors of states along the eastern seaboard of the United States ordering mandatory evacuations for coastal residents to shelter “100 miles inland.”

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But the reason I could not help laughing is that issuing an evacuation order in the Caribbean to escape a hurricane is rather like issuing an evacuation order in China to escape the smog.

Where the hell would they go? After all, if people on most islands were to evacuate 100 miles inland, they’d end up either in the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean.

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-9-01-50-amApropos of which, the Bahamian government made quite a show of evacuating over 100 students from the relatively large island of the Jamaica, which was forecast to receive only glancing blows, to the relatively small island of New Providence, which was forecast to receive direct hits. Someone should ask Prime Minister Perry Christie to explain why this made sense — with respect to their personal safety and our public finances.

In any event, I am seized with a fusion of indignation and resentment whenever the American media cover a hurricane roaring through our region. For it invariably seems as though they’re previewing a disaster movie coming soon to a local theater instead of reporting on an unfolding human tragedy.

News outlets cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom…

[But] Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters, and other emergency management resources to track and withstand hurricanes with no loss of life.

(“Katrina’s Coming, Katrina’s Coming,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

Even so, at least my folks could shelter in homes that are veritable fortresses; that is, compared with far too many of our regional compatriots in Haiti – who could only shelter in shanty-town shacks.

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In fact, reports are that this hurricane has left over 5 million Haitians even more displaced than that catastrophic earthquake left them six years ago.

Aerial shots of the devastation give the impression of Haitians living the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The only wonder is that Haitians aren’t taking to the Caribbean Sea for a better life in the United States, the way Africans are taking to the Mediterranean Sea for a better life in Europe. Especially given that the looming plagues of cholera, Zika … and famine are bound to make Haiti even more of a living Hell.

All of which gives further cause for this Doubting Thomas to question the “intelligent design” of a world in which the comfortable are fated to be comfortable and the afflicted … fated to be afflicted.

Still, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected, especially the godforsaken people of Haiti.

NOTE: Reports are that the death toll in Haiti is likely to rise. Please donate to relief and recovery efforts relief here or here.

Related commentaries:
Hurricanes
Haiti, Haiti, Haiti

* This commentary was originally published on Friday, October 7

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