USA Today: Fragile Haiti braces for Tropical Storm Tomas



“Hi Joseph, {Joseph Bernard Jr. in Port-au-Prince. a Tikkun Olam award winner)

We are watching the news very carefully and of course, are sad and worried about Hurricane Tomas. We are hoping with you for the least of all possible e damage to people and property.

Please keep us posted on how you are doing and the effect this is having on your life and work.

Let us know if there is anything you need that we can mail to you.

You are in our thoughts at this difficult time.

Warm wishes,

Harriet and Bill”

 

By Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY                 ( To See AP Video on Tomas CLICK HERE )

Hundreds of Red Cross workers in Haiti have prepared all year for the inevitable — a tropical storm that would sweep away flimsy shelters and flood fetid camps where more than a million earthquake victims live.

“This is what we’ve been talking about for many months,” said International Red Cross spokesman Matt Cochrane. “We knew that Haiti was likely going to be hit by a tropical storm.”

That storm was to arrive today. Tropical Storm Tomas was headed toward Haiti late Thursday with heavy rains and 50 mph winds that forecasters said could be hurricane strength when the storm hits.

Red Cross teams had amassed 17,000 shelter kits, containing tools, tarps, kitchen sets and toiletries to supply a family of five for a month, Cochrane said. Aid workers were also prepared to restart water production, which has provided 660,000 gallons of clean water a day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

Forecasters predicted up to 15 inches of rain will fall, which threatens to cause flooding and mudslides, National Hurricane Center director Bill Read said. Wind gusts up to 75 mph could hit western Haiti and eastern Cuba, he said. Tomas becomes a hurricane when its wind exceeds 74 mph.

The United Nations estimates the storm could affect 500,000 people. The U.N. said aid organizations have enough tarps and tents stockpiled to shelter 300,000 people after the storm.

Haiti felt the storm’s first swipe Thursday morning when downpours drenched the southwestern coast. Cochrane in Port-au-Prince felt a “real ill wind” as the temperature dropped and a drizzle began.

In the past week, aid workers and government teams have visited the tent camps, urging residents to seek refuge with family and friends or in civic buildings. But many of Haiti’s homeless refused to leave the camps, the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency said.

“That’s not the easiest thing to do,” said Cochrane, who sensed frustration among residents.

Many people have nowhere to go. Most civic buildings that sheltered people in previous storms collapsed in the quake, he said.

“There’s not enough. There’s never been enough,” he said.

ACT Alliance, an organization of more than 100 church-related groups, said Thursday it expected flooding in tent camps in Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Jacmel.

Health officials said flooding and damage to water systems will spread the cholera epidemic now active in the rural Artibonite region north of Port-au-Prince. The cholera outbreak has killed 442 people and sickened 6,742 others, the Haiti Health Ministry said Thursday.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, 20 British sailors from the HMS Manchester, a destroyer, reached Morne Fond St. Jacques, a remote village on the slope of the Soufriere volcano in Saint Lucia , where a mudslide destroyed roads and collapsed buildings. The 300 villagers had been trapped since Tomas struck Oct. 31, the British government said. The storm killed at least 14 people on the island.

 

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