A critical component of any effective response to a disaster, is information. Without this, scant resources can be sent to the wrong places and time can be lost; in disaster zones this can lead to further loss of life. MapAction was setup to ensure that aid agencies are supported with this vital data and have it presented to them in simple to understand maps.
MapAction volunteers have to be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice and be on the ground collating information as soon as possible. When tropical storm Matthew was upgraded to a hurricane and was set on what would be its hugely destructive path through the Caribbean, Exprodat staff-member Dean Moiler got that call, dropped everything and headed for Jamaica, to prepare for Matthew’s arrival.
Alongside members of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, Dean setup base in Kingston. As the local population boarded up windows and stocked up on supplies, the team started to gather local mapping data whilst keeping an eye on the hurricane’s path.
Luckily for Jamaica, Matthew turned north but was now headed straight for Haiti, the Bahamas and the Florida coastline. Working with natural disasters is rarely predictable and so Dean and the rest of the team packed up their equipment and raced to where they were needed more urgently.
A hastily arranged and long delayed plane journey followed via the Turks and Caicos Islands meeting up with the local Caribbean Disaster & Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Premier who took time to wish them luck, before arriving in Nassau. Whilst the Bahamas did not experience the loss of life that Matthew visited upon Haiti (to which a second MapAction team had deployed), the damage to property and infrastructure was widespread and extensive.
Flooding in the streets, by now mixed with sewage and vegetation brought the additional threat of mosquito infestation and by connection, the Zika virus. Established crops – mango, banana, sugar apple – had been lost and may well take a decade to recover. Based at the quickly setup Emergency Operations Centre, the MapAction, UNDAC and CDEMA teams set about their work. The information and maps that they created were invaluable in helping communities all across the region start to rebuild their homes and lives.
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