October 28, 2016

After Hurricane Matthew: Investigating Housing and School Damages in Beaumont & Les Cayes

Build Change


Today we visited the city of Beaumont located between Jeremie and Camp Perrin in the mountains. We met the Mayor of Beaumont, who described a similar situation as that in Moron. The main street of the town was not very affected by the hurricanes. The majority of the houses and commercial shops are made from unreinforced masonry with heavy roofs. We went with a municipal agent to visit the outskirts of the town. In this area, ­ 80% of houses were made from wood frame and stone masonry infill and 20% were constructed from unreinforced masonry. We saw again here that wood framed houses are much more damaged. The stone masonry is unable to resist the wind force, and we did not see wood cross bracing in the walls. People who lost their home are either staying in an unreinforced masonry school or building makeshift shelters on their property. We asked the construction date of these houses while interviewing the homeowners, usually they do not remember the date as they are more than 30 years old. Most foremen are not building with wood frames anymore and the skills have been lost throughout the years. New houses are built from unreinforced masonry blocks.

Stone infill house with shelter next door
Picture of wood frame and masonry infill houses destroyed in Beaumont. The homeowner used old CGI to make a shelter next to the site of their destroyed home.

We visited two schools in Beaumont. INFODIH is a primary school made from unreinforced masonry and with a wood truss system for the roof. The school was badly damage by the fall of the masonry gable. The pieces of block gable broke some wood truss element and let the wind enter in the classroom. As the other part of the roof did not suffer severe damage once can argue that the roof sheets were blown away after the gable roof fall. Fortunately, the school was not used as an emergency shelter during the hurricane.

INFODHI School roof

The wood truss elements were well connected with gusset plate on both sides, but the roof-to-wall connection consisting of bent rebar wrapped around the truss rafter seemed insufficient. The school is currently shut down and the school materials and furniture are subjected to the elements.

Ecole National de Beaumont without roof
Ecole National de Beaumont, without roof.

We visited the National School of Beaumont and unfortunately the roof damage is severe. The six classrooms do not have a roof anymore. The structural system used for the roof – 2×4 rafters spaced at 1m – is insufficient to resist the wind force. The rafter-to-rafter connection was done poorly and the failure occurred at this weak point. The connection of the rafter to the top of the masonry gable was insufficient, and the wood elements were pulled away from the wall allowing pieces of the masonry gable to fall. The schools of Beaumont that were not damaged by the hurricane are being used as shelters for the families who lost their homes. There is no school running in Beaumont currently.

Rafter to Rafter connection failure
Rafter-to-rafter connection failure

We arrived in Les Cayes in the afternoo, a major city on the southern coast of the island. The city was flooded for days after Hurricane Matthew as the rain had continued to pour. The city center is full of trash and debris, but the majority of the buildings were in unreinforced masonry and were able to resist the strong winds. The majority of light weight roofs have been blown away.

Les Cayes
Main street in Les Cayes

We visited an informal settlement that was dramatically affected by the hurricane and the floods. The structure of the houses have been soaked in water for days and the structures are in really bad condition. The sanitation situation in this zone is a severe concern due to high population density of the neighborhood, the amount of trash and clogged drainage.

Damage in Informal neighborhood in Les Cayes
Damage in Informal neighborhood in Les Cayes

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