Swooping in toward Port-au-Prince on a completely packed flight out of Miami, I craned my neck from the bank of middle seats to catch a glimpse of the ground below: neat rows of greens shoved through the earth in small backyard gardens, reminding me that the rainy season had come to the Haitian capital.
The rain is great for plants. But what about the hundreds of thousands of people here whose only shelter are sheets of plastic?
As we rolled across the tarmac in the heavy afternoon heat–the stewardess had announced that it was 95 degrees outside–a blanket of clouds pressed down on the city. They grew darker and thicker as we made our way through customs and into a steaming warehouse that served as the airlines baggage claim area.
Outside, it felt like rain.
And a few minutes later, it came–a great sheet of it, dropping like a curtain on a stage and closing from view all that was behind it. Beyond the Oxfam guest house, the rain swalllowed a steep hillside littered with homes left crumbled, one on top of the other, by the January earthquake. Water shot from a rooftop drain with a force almost as powerful as a fire hose. And out on the street, a spontaneous river rushed along the curb, whisking trash down the hill.
And the people under plastic? How were they managing?
The wind picked up. The trees bent against the blow. And lightning tore open the sky, sending waves of thunder crashing into the makeshift camps across the city.
A colleague studied the storm through the window, shaking her head slowly, her face set in worry.
“It hasn’t rained like this before,” she said.
Along the street, two people–or was it more huddled together–pushed through the rain under a strip of worn gray plastic billowed out like an umbrella, their arms as spokes, their feet slopping through the runoff streaming downhill. Another man, head bent, had no protection at all. He was soaked. In this city of rubble and tarps, where would he go to get dry?
It’s the rainy season. And it’s only just begun.