ShelterBox – international emergency shelter experts, are closely monitoring the progress of Matthew, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent years. With echoes of their response to Haiti’s quake in 2010, ShelterBox has experience of aiding islanders.
Getting aid to remote island communities after natural disasters is something of a signature response for the international agency, ShelterBox. This year alone it has supplied emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies to remote islanders on Fiji after they were hit by the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.
ShelterBox was also among the first agencies on the scene of Sri Lanka’s deadly mudslides when the island nation experienced its most torrential monsoon rains for forty years in May.
Now ShelterBox is closely monitoring the course of Hurricane Matthew, a Category Four storm that threatens 40 inches of rain and wind speeds of 130 mph, with the possibility of flash flooding and storm surges. It has already hit parts of Jamaica, with floodwaters blocking roads in the capital Kingston.
As Matthew moves slowly northwards there are fears for Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, and for Cuba and the Bahamas.
ShelterBox Operations Team Lead Andrew Clark is heading up an Operations unit in Truro watching the storm’s progress. Andrew says, ‘At present the countries that lie in Matthew’s forecast path are advising citizens to evacuate coastal areas and to abandon vulnerable buildings.’
‘ShelterBox’s role will be to examine the aftermath, to liaise with Governments and our colleague aid charities, and to respond where and when appropriate. We have aid stored in the region in Panama, so if there is a need that we can meet in any of these countries we will make arrangements promptly.’
‘At this stage we hope that the forewarning of Matthew’s arrival will have allowed people to escape danger. But this is a violent storm that will cause structural damage, and flooding and storm surges are extremely likely.’
‘Both of Haiti’s airports are now closed, but we have experience of getting aid into Haiti in challenging conditions, and of responding to major storms all over the world.’
Meteorologists say that Hurricane Matthew is expected to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas in the coming days, although it is too soon to say whether it will move any closer to the US coast.