The only thing familiar about the long stretch of Pointe-Sable beach in
"Apocalyptic," said Jean-Marie Chérestal, Port-Salut native, former prime minister and a hotelier whose 30-room inn at Pointe-Sable, Le Relais du Boucanier, suffered extensive damage from Matthew's
Pausing, he struggles to hold back the tears. They flow anyway.
"I love Port-Salut," Chérestal, 69, continued, detailing how he helped lead the transformation of the coastal city from a sleepy farming community west of
Families such as the Leforts, who long ago migrated to
"Everyone is afraid. Everyone is stressed," said
Two years ago, Lefort's older brother,
"Nothing's left," she said.
Or almost nothing. Of Port-Salut's 19 registered hotels, two survived Matthew's 145-mph winds and flooding, tourism officials said. But even the survivors don't feel particularly lucky: the town remains in perpetual blackout with downed power lines and poles, the coastal road is damaged and residents are wondering how long it will be before life returns to normal.
"My team is alive, and my hotel withstood the hurricane," Catherine Barrière, the owner of L'Auberge
These days, with no electricity or running water, there are are no tourists.
In the month since Matthew made landfall 146 miles west of here, near the rural village of Les Anglais on
While most people have come to associate
The result was more than 515,804 overnight stays in 2015 compared to 367,219 the year before the quake, according to the tourism ministry, and investments by international brands such as Best Western, Marriott,
"[Matthew] put a pause in the tourism industry because the headlines read, '
Hyppolite said the government is still trying to assess the damage to figure out how best to help hoteliers recover, whether through a low-interest loan or grant. Hyppolite says an
"Nobody has put together anything that looks at the damage done to the environment, which we have to address," Hyppolite said.
Unlike the neighboring
"They had a good, natural set-up," Hyppolite said. "Now after Matthew, we're back to the drawing board."
Among the disconcerting revelations after the storm: most hoteliers lacked insurance.
"It was expensive," said Boursiquot, the owner of
Six years ago, Boursiquot and her late husband, Charles, invested about
"You don't know where to start," said Boursiquot, who estimates it would cost her about
"All of the things that we had were destroyed, carried out by the water ... the dishes, the glasses," she said. "The bar is completely gone."
The scene is even more devastating farther up the beach at Dan's
A landmark of sorts with its multistory French Colonial architecture and mysterious disappearance of founder Daniel Evinx in 2014, Dan's Creek had become synonymous with Port-Salut. Today, it's a gutted out shell of its former glory, the ocean-front balconies mostly gone.
"It was a reference point for the area," Charles said as workers around him unearthed broken furniture from beneath a pile of fallen concrete and washed up debris. The hotel, he said, employed 18 people -- all of whom are now out of jobs.
"We don't know what we're going to do," he said. "There is a touristic void. When people say they are coming to Port-Salut now, what are they coming to see? You may have one or two who come to bring aid, but in terms of tourism, coming to relax, that's going to take time."
Kebreau is part of a group of Haitian-Canadian investors working to transform the area with a high-end condominium and vacation club project. Residence le Sommet de Port Salut was just weeks away from completion when Kebreau was forced to leave one of the 36 apartments at
"The hurricane brought everything down, all of the glass, all of the windows," said Kebreau, who also lost 128 solar panels and estimates the damage to be between
Today, all that's left standing is the building's hillside multistory steel structure. Every unit but one -- No. 305, where Kebreau is now living -- was destroyed.
Kebreau said he constructed the building with
"All of it is gone," he said. "We have to start all over again."
"The beauty of the mountains overlooking the ocean all around me, more than 180 degrees, that gives you a sense of peace in the morning when you wake up," he said.
He's been cleaning up Matthew's mess for a month now, and estimates that he'll finish by January. Maybe by February, he said, he and his partners can start rebuilding. Then again, maybe not.
"Port-Salut will probably need a minimum of three to four years to recover," Kebreau said. "Nobody is interested in coming to see us now, the way we are. There is nothing to see, even the beach has been damaged."
Chérestal, who served as prime minister from 2001 to 2002 under former President
"Jean-Marie Chérestal, however, won't plant here again," he said. "Now it's the role of a new generation."
Port-Salut can't do it alone, he said. "We are going to need help from a serious government, a government with a vision. It will require energy and experience."
Looking out at the ocean and at the stripped expanse of land where his beautiful tropical plants once bloomed, Chérestal tried to remember the town before the storm -- and what it could be again. He remembered a conversation with a local man who had been unable to feed his children until tourism came to Port-Salut.
"His son was in medical school in
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