At least 900 people have died and 15,000 people have lost their homes due to extensive flooding in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to Red Cross estimates. Violent storms hit the two nations last weekend and today forecasters are expecting an additional three inches of rain on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which the two countries share.

Gen. Jose Maria Jimenez of the Dominican Republic Army told CNN that the total damage has not yet been realized. "Even though the press has done a good job of informing the public about the tragedy, I believe the people don't have a good idea of the magnitude of this tragedy, which has affected Jimani," Jimenez said.

The worst of the flooding occurred between 2 and 4 a.m. Monday morning when a formerly dry riverbed overflowed, propelling uprooted trees and boulders through low-lying areas. Most of the families were asleep at the time and had no time to escape. At least 14 towns experienced power failures and toppled telephone lines. 

In response to the devastation, several Christian humanitarian organizations, including World Vision and Food for the Hungry, are providing emergency relief. Staff from World Vision began delivering emergency food, water and medicine this week. World Vision, which has worked in the Dominican Republic for more than 25 years, has on-going community development work in four communities affected by floods.

 

World Vision has reached some 4,500 people in the past two days with food, water, medicine, clothing, diapers, mosquito nets, cooking supplies and help in finding shelter. Coordinating with the National Public Health Secretary, staff also have begun tetanus immunizations and established trauma assistance centers and primary health centers. World Vision also will provide relief aid in Haiti.

 

"Many roads are still blocked due to mudslides and damaged bridges," says Buck Deines, Food for the Hungry's Latin America Vice President.  "But Food for the Hungry staff based in the neighboring province are determined to do what it takes to get immediate help to these flood victims.  They will be in Jimani tomorrow with food and clothing to help the flood victims," Deines adds.

 

The situation is rapidly growing worse because of the threat of contaminates left from standing water and lack of shelter from the elements. The combination of standing water and mud is a prime attraction for mosquitoes - insects that can carry parasites and result in spreading malaria and dengue fever rapidly.

 

At least 20 children sponsored through World Vision are among the confirmed fatalities, while Food for the Hungry children seem to have been spared. "We have more than 1,700 sponsored children in the Dominican Republic," says Bonnie Chavez, head of Food for the Hungry's Child Sponsorship department.  “The majority of our children live in villages further north of Jimani and others are much further east in the city of Santo Domingo but we will continue monitoring these areas," said Chavez.

 

World Vision operates two community development programs in the flooded areas, which include clean water systems, income-generation programs and AIDS prevention education. The improvements are funded by monthly donations from American sponsors, who also exchange letters with children in the project. "Losing these children is an incredible tragedy for the town," said World Vision communicator Carla Swanson-Gawthrop. "It also will be heartbreaking for the American families who were supporting and caring for them."