Our disaster response work in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew continues in South Carolina, after our transfer of nearly 100 dogs from shelters there ahead of the storm. We’ve been on the ground in that state since last week, assisting in rescue and relief, which included additional transports of close to 100 other animals. We’re coordinating with the National Guard in Horry and Marion counties to remove stranded animals from flooded properties.
On Tuesday, our team’s last call of the day was in a badly flooded area, with homes under more than 15 feet of flood water. An elderly homeowner, who barely made it out himself, contacted authorities regarding his four cats and one dog that he was unable to move as the flood waters surged. Three of the cats and the dog were stranded in a school bus and the fourth cat was inside the home. Our rescuers were prepared for the worst because of the harsh conditions, but miraculously they found all the animals alive – wet and scared out of their wits, but alive. The cats were floating on debris in the bus. All three, and the cat in the home, were rescued, as was the dog.
Meanwhile, a team from Humane Society International is deployed in Haiti to help animals affected by Matthew. They were in the area called Robin on Tuesday and are conducting an emergency veterinary clinic there today. They’ve also been in a rural area, Bois de Chénes, which was battered by the hurricane. Tomorrow, they’ll set up an emergency clinic in Bois de Chénes to offer veterinary care and food.
HSI responder John Peaveler, who’s been sending us dispatches, had this to say about the scene in Bois de Chénes:
“Most trees are blown down or snapped off and most houses have been damaged. Rooftops were either blown off or torn into pieces. We interviewed a number of local people that lived through the storm. They described the terror they felt with the sound of the wind snapping trees and roaring all around them. One family described tying ropes to their roof from inside their house and holding down the rooftop through the 24 hours of the storm.”
The animal stories are just as unsettling and disturbing. Many animals in this area were tethered outside because there are no barns or other shelters, and they died in the storm. Cows and other farm animals are still tethered in fields. The sheep look especially bad, John reports — almost shell-shocked. The condition of goats is fairly good, but the horses looked terrible. The cows have good luster to their coats but most appear at least moderately malnourished.
None of the animals appear to have received any prior veterinary care.
While most of the dogs and cats were able to ride out the storm indoors, many show signs of emotional trauma. They are emaciated because the people in those same communities are struggling to feed themselves, leaving virtually nothing for the animals. Humanitarian relief has been very slow in coming, or non-existent, the roads are inaccessible, and the communities are entirely isolated.
It is a sad and difficult situation for sure, and one we can’t turn away from. We go in because we have dedicated teams, the expertise and quite frankly, few organizations are able to step up and make a difference in the lives of these animals the way we can.