While people in Haiti take shelter from Hurricane Irma as it ripped across the Caribbean island on Thursday, a Moncton man is concerned for the safety of students at a school built in honour of RCMP officer, and Maritimer, Mark Gallagher.
Ken Biddington, a teacher at the Moncton campus of the Community College of New Brunswick (CCNB) has been to Haiti several times.
On Thursday, he was on the phone with Sister Kaline Honere, the director of the Sgt. Mark Gallagher Vocational School, in Rivière Froide.
RCMP Sgt. Gallagher was killed by a devastating earthquake while training Haiti’s national police force on a United Nations mission in 2010.
Honere told Biddington that she was in the heart of the storm, holed up somewhere in the northern part of the island.
According to Honere, Rivière Froide is already flooded and the trees are being tossed around like matchsticks.
His fears then turned to the school built in memory of Gallagher.
The Sgt. Mark Gallagher Vocational School had only welcomed its first students in 2014.
Biddington has helped to train many of the teachers who work at the school.
“My greatest concern is where are people going to find shelter because the houses in Haiti are very small and very fragile,” he said.
He hopes Haitians are able to take refuge in the school if it itself can survive.
“Even though it is well built, when you’ve got those types of winds, the roof could fly off of the Mark Gallagher School,” said Biddington.
“If the roof maintains, then they will be able to use the school.”
WATCH: Hurricane Irma leaves a trail of destruction in the Caribbean
He said there are “about 20,000 people — mostly squatters,” living around the school in shanties that can’t possibly stand up to hurricane force winds.
Even if the mammoth storm just skirts the south, he says landslides caused by heavy rain are a threat to millions on the island.
“[The island] is one-third the size of New Brunswick with 11 million people and 75 per cent of it is mountains,” he said.
Haitian student Germain Didier at the college where Biddington teaches at, doesn’t fear for his family living in well-built homes in Port-aux-Prince, but is concerned for the less fortunate Haitians living in poor communities near the school who have little to no shelter.
“I think they will survive because Haitians are very strong and they will do something to protect themselves,” Didier said.
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