Hurricane Irma

Media CenterCRS Responds to Aftermath of Hurricane Irma; Prepares for Hurricane Jose

Credit: NOAA/NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(443) 955- 7125

Robyn Fieser
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(849) 354-9257




En español

Updated September 13, 2017, 3:50 pm

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is coordinating with local Caritas partners in the Caribbean in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma to provide urgent relief to thousands of families affected by the storm.

Across the Caribbean, the catastrophic Category 5 hurricane left death and destruction in its path, affecting as many as half a million people and claiming at least 37 lives.

The storm wreaked havoc on the small islands of Anguilla, Barbuda, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy in the Leeward Islands, wiping out homes and leaving many residents without electricity and in need of basic supplies.

CRS has deployed an emergency team member to St. Lucia to help our Caritas partner provide immediate relief and also to determine the biggest needs on Antigua and Barbuda, the island of about 100,000 residents that was nearly leveled last week when the eye of the storm passed almost directly over it. 

Because CRS is the U.S. Catholic Church’s international humanitarian agency - assisting vulnerable people overseas - we’re supporting the emergency response outside of the United States. CRS’ sister organization, Catholic Charities, is aiding those affected by Hurricane Irma here in the U.S., including Florida and other states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Our biggest worry right now is in the lesser Antilles – the island formation that includes Barbuda, Antigua and St. Lucia – where evacuations are still happening,” said Anna Hrybyk, CRS technical advisor for emergency response, from the Dominican Republic. “People need basic things like food, shelter and water to get them through these very difficult times ahead. These are people who have lived on the islands for decades and now have nothing. And hurricane season has only just begun.”

The storm killed at least 10 people in Cuba, damaging nearly every region as it swept over the island country, leaving parts of Havana’s iconic historic district under water.

In the Dominican Republic, strong winds and rain damaged more than 2,200 homes, forcing 12,600 people to seek refuge in shelters or with family and friends. The United Nations reported that 70 percent of electrical lines were down in Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Samana and Puerto Plata provinces. Damage to 30 aqueducts is affecting the drinking water of 1 million people.  

As our partners and Church volunteers continue to fan out to more remote areas to reach isolated communities and identify the most pressing needs, CRS is readying emergency supplies such as kitchen sets and hygiene materials and emergency shelter kits that include tarps, rope and nails. CRS will also provide vouchers so that people can buy other things they need from local markets. 

In Northern Haiti, CRS is helping communities clean up and prepare 14 schools that served as shelters and clear important canals of debris to allow proper drainage and reduce flooding of houses and farms.   

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Updated September 8, 2017, 1:58pm

As Hurricane Irma is roaring northwest toward Cuba and Florida, it left death and destruction in its path through the Caribbean. While Haiti and the Dominican Republic were spared a direct hit as the storm passed north of Hispaniola, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is now turning its focus on the smaller Caribbean islands that have been almost completely leveled. 

With total devastation in Barbuda, St. Martin and St. Barts, and with another dangerous storm on the heels of Hurricane Irma, CRS and our Caritas partners in St. Lucia and Granada are evaluating how to help with evacuations ahead of Hurricane Jose, a category 4 storm expected to barrel across those same islands.

“We are breathing a sigh of relief as reports of damage from the northern coast come in,” said Anna Hrybyk, CRS technical advisor for emergency response.  “Now we’re working with our Caritas partners in the Dominican Republic to help the people who were impacted. We’re also very concerned for the people in the Lesser Antilles who were not nearly so lucky. They need help as they are evacuated and start to recover from this devastating hurricane.”

In the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Irma left in its wake significant damage but didn’t have the catastrophic impact feared earlier in the week. The strong winds and rain damaged more than 2,200 homes and as many as 12,600 people are still in shelters or with family and friends. That number is expected to decrease significantly, as many are beginning to return home. Meanwhile, 17 communities have not yet been reached.

We are working with our Caritas partners in the Dominican Republic to assess the level of damage and to determine how many families were affected. We expect to support Caritas with relief items such as tarps, hygiene and kitchen kits and education campaigns to help residents avoid the water born and respiratory diseases that occur in the aftermath of hurricanes.

On Haiti’s northern coast, 2,000 people were reported to be in shelters as of last night while major damage to infrastructure has been avoided, according to reports. CRS teams are now fanning out to more remote areas to identify the greatest needs in those affected communities. 


Updated September 7, 2017, 2:40pm

CRS is supporting Caritas as it works tirelessly to evacuate the most vulnerable residents of Puerto Plata, a province in northern Dominican Republic. Teams are focusing on those living in low-lying areas prone to flooding and in wood houses with flimsy roofing—organizing transport to shelters and providing food. 

“The good news is that families continue to call us for evacuation so that’s a good sign that people are getting the message,” said Francisco Colon, the director of Caritas Puerto Plata.

The center of the storm was about 75 miles east-northeast of Puerto Plata at that time. There was rain and strong winds, said Colon, but residents were still anxiously waiting to the see the worst of what 185-mile winds and torrential rain could bring. Electricity was already down in some areas and communication intermittent, and by mid-day, some 10,000 people were bracing for the storm in shelters in Puerto Plata, an area best known for its beaches and resorts.

The Dominican government issued red alerts for 17 of the country’s 32 provinces, including the city of Santo Domingo with almost 1 million people. All told, the hurricane has the potential to impact more than 3 million people across the country.   

CRS is working with local diocesan partners in Puerto Plata and four other northern provinces and at the national level. Partners are engaging church volunteers in each region in the farthest places where government assistance is not likely to arrive quickly.  

“We are absolutely expecting what will come,” said Colon. “We’re fully committed to accompanying and supporting these people during this emergency.”

The outer edges of Irma, a powerful category 5 hurricane that has already left at least 10 people dead in its wake, started to tear through the northern regions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday morning. 

The National Hurricane Center warned that Northern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic could receive storm surge up to 5 feet and up to 10” of rain causing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. It is likely that the core of the rain swath will stay offshore from the island of Hispanola but the Southwest Bahamas and Turks and Caicos could receive up to 20 inches of rain.

In Haiti, CRS and partners in the north of the country continued to deliver the message that while it’s possible Hurricane Irma might not directly hit the country, the damage could still be devastating.

“I’m particularly concerned that people will let their guard down,” said Beth Carrroll, CRS emergency coordinator in Haiti. “As we saw with Matthew, which hit another part of Haiti with winds of 165 miles per hour, entire communities were decimated in low-lying, flood prone areas.”

At least 1 million people who live in or around Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second-most populated city, are at risk.

An emergency team is in Cap-Haitien now helping the government alert residents and relocate the most vulnerable. They are also mapping out how to assess the damage caused by Irma and where to organize distribution of pre-positioned relief supplies including tarps, shelter repair kits, and hygiene and kitchen kits. 

The small island of Barbuda took a direct hit from Irma and officials there said many buildings were destroyed. Similar accounts came from St. Barthélemy, St. Martin, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. The storm stayed offshore of Puerto Rico but winds there still reached hurricane force and caused widespread damage and power outages. 


Updated September 5, 2017 -- As Hurricane Irma strengthens over the Atlantic Ocean and races toward the Caribbean, CRS is ready to respond with pre-stocked relief supplies and a skilled emergency team poised to deploy.

With winds of up to 180 miles per hour, Irma is expected to bring storm surges and torrential rainfall to the Leeward islands, east of Puerto Rico, within the next 24 hours before sweeping west across the Caribbean. The category 5 hurricane—one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic—poses a major threat to life and property from the Eastern Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane watches are in effect for parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the countries that make up the island of Hispaniola. Irma could dump up to 10 inches of rain and unleash landslides and flash floods, impacting the northern coast of the island on Thursday or Friday.

“As previous storms have shown, it does not take a lot to devastate the livelihoods of thousands and thousands of people in countries that are as vulnerable as the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. And by all accounts, Irma is expected to be a monster of a storm. That’s why we are so concerned now, before the storm makes landfall,” said Conor Walsh, CRS country representative who oversees programming in the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The northern coast of Hispaniola is low-lying and flood prone. Poor drainage and low elevation mean that even a small amount of rain can cause extensive flooding. The rain and winds expected from Irma will potentially cause catastrophic flooding and landslides.   

Working closely with local government and partners, including Caritas, CRS emergency response teams are now on standby to quickly assess the needs and mount an immediate response in the affected countries.

In Haiti, CRS has a robust network of logistical and human resources, particularly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the southern area of Les Cayes—which was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew almost one year ago—and is ready to move personnel and transport and deliver relief items. In the north, CRS works through a network of local partners to reach at-risk communities.  

As soon as the hurricane passes, CRS is poised to distribute pre-positioned relief items, including tarps, shelter repair kits, and hygiene and kitchen kits.  If markets remain open, CRS will also assist families with cash to purchase necessary items. CRS will work with Caritas partners in the northern districts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti to conduct rapid assessments in coordination with local government and other humanitarian agencies to survey damage, identify major needs and vulnerabilities.

CRS has worked in Haiti and the Dominican Republic for more than 50 years. In 2010, CRS responded to the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing thousands of people. Last year, when Hurricane Matthew decimated the country’s southern coast, we provided relief supplies to 200,000 people in the first months of the response. We continue to work closely with families and communities as they rebuild and recover.   


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnewsYouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

Tags: emergency


Nikki Gamer

Media Relations Manager

Nikki Gamer
September 5, 2017

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Media Relations Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement of...More