Emily threatens fragile Haiti

2011-08-02 22:32

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Port-au-Prince - Authorities in Haiti called on Tuesday for evacuations as Tropical Storm Emily threatened a direct hit on the impoverished nation still struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Haiti as well as its neighbour on the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic, and for the US territory of Puerto Rico, the US National Hurricane Centre said.

Haiti's weather service chief Ronald Semelfort said the storm could start pounding the country late Wednesday and that this "represents a great danger for the country still fragile from the January 2010 earthquake".

Tens of thousands of Haitians remain in camps without adequate shelter more than 18 months after the catastrophic quake, which left an estimated 225 000 people dead.

Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of Haiti's civil defence, said authorities were spreading the word and "are asking people in refugee camps... to evacuate vulnerable locations".

"We will review this evacuation strategy based on the probability of damage from the storm" the official added.

At 15:00 GMT, Emily was some 435km southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, packing winds of 60km/h, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre reported.

The storm was stationary but expected to resume its movement toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Tropical storm warning

"Emily has been meandering during the past several hours but the cyclone should resume a west-northwest motion at about 19km/h later today," the hurricane centre said.

Emily is currently forecast to drop between four and six inches of rain on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic "with isolated maximum amounts of 20cm possible," the NHC said.

"These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in areas of mountainous terrain," the NHC said.

The Dominican Republic declared an alert for portions of the country, called for mandatory evacuations in a dozen villages near dams and urged residents to take precautions in other areas.

"Residents in high-risk areas, who live next to rivers, streams and creeks... should take precautions and be aware of the recommendations of the relief agencies," the government's office of emergency services said.

A tropical storm warning was called off for the French island of Guadeloupe and nearby areas.

Read more on:    haiti  |  weather
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