The Republic of Haiti covers about 27,750 square kms (10,714 square miles). Haiti is about half the size of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and about the same size as the U.S. state of Massachusetts, and occupies one-third of the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic occupies the balance. From the air, the border between the two countries is clearly visible; the DR is green and lush, Haiti is mostly deforested, its trees used for fuel. This sets the stage for devastating landslides and floods whether it’s hurricane season or not. Christopher Columbus claimed the island of Hispaniola for Spain in 1492; Spain ceded it to France in 1697. Haiti became the wealthiest French colony in the Caribbean, thanks to forests and sugar cane. In 1804, Haiti won its independence as the world’s first black republic.