Reuters.com – Tomas regains hurricane force, soaks Haiti camps

Begin forwarded message:

From: “Reuters_News” <Reuters_News>

Date: November 5, 2010 7:24:02 AM MDT

Subject: Reuters.com – Tomas regains hurricane force, soaks Haiti camps

Jim Smith MD (health4haiti) has sent you this article.
Personal Message:
Storm Tomas upgraded to Hurricane status, hits Haiti today.
Reuters
Tomas regains hurricane force, soaks Haiti camps
Fri Nov 05 12:58:13 UTC 2010
By Matthew Bigg

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Tomas re-strengthened to a hurricane on Friday as it headed between Cuba and Haiti, drenching with overnight rain crowded tent and tarpaulin camps housing vulnerable Haitian earthquake survivors.

Although some camp dwellers in Haiti’s capital, homeless from the January 12 quake, were able to evacuate to more secure shelter with family or friends, or in schools and public buildings, hundreds of thousands spent the night under dripping plastic and canvas in the mud-choked encampments.

“It rained, but it was a normal night and I slept,” said ice cream seller Zaporte N’Zanou, who passed the night in a tent in the big Champs de Mars quake survivors’ camp in front of the wrecked presidential palace in Port-au-Prince.

With the approach of Tomas from the south, the United Nations and relief agencies have gone on maximum alert to prepare for the risk of a further humanitarian emergency in Haiti, which is already reeling from a deadly cholera epidemic and from the widespread destruction of the earthquake.

At 8 a.m., Tomas was moving northeastward to the west of Haiti, about 160 miles from Port-au-Prince, packing top sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

It had earlier re-intensified over the Caribbean sea into a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, heading on a track that would take it near or over eastern Cuba, the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas.

On Thursday, hours before the approach of the cyclone, Haitian President Rene Preval went on national radio to urge citizens to take precautions and follow evacuation recommendations in the face of the risk of gusting winds, surging waves and torrential rains.

“Protect your lives,” Preval told Haitians.

The Miami-based hurricane center said the biggest threat from Tomas would be heavy rainfall that could produce flash flooding and life-threatening mudslides in Haiti, where massive deforestation — caused largely by impoverished peasants cutting firewood for decades — has left hills and mountains bare and eroded.

The January 12 earthquake killed more than a quarter of a million people in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. About 1.3 million survivors live in makeshift tent camps crammed into open spaces in the wrecked capital.

With the storm threat and the spreading cholera epidemic, Haiti faces major disruption less than a month before November 28 presidential and legislative elections. Electoral officials have not moved to postpone the vote.

‘IN GOD’S HANDS’

Camp dwellers had hunkered down for a miserable night as rain fell steadily. Every camp has a committee charged with keeping order and several committee leaders said they were trying to alleviate conditions for the most vulnerable.

“We are putting old people and young families in the Red Cross shelter,” said Yves-Marie Sopin at a camp for around 5,000 people on the grounds of the prime minister’s residence.

“We haven’t taken precautions. We are in God’s hands,” said Ave Lise Mesila, in her white tarpaulin tent.

The United Nations said the storm will almost certainly exacerbate a cholera epidemic that has killed 442 people and sickened more than 6,700 so far, according to government figures.

“The big fear is for people on exposed mountains. These people are at high risk of landslides and flash flooding,” said Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

Tomas swept across the Caribbean’s eastern islands as a hurricane during the weekend, killing at least five people in St. Lucia. Several more people were missing.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands and parts of the Bahamas and Cuba.

At the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba, military officials warned the 174 foreign captives detained there that a storm was on the way and laid in supplies of water and packaged meals.

“Detainees are secure in sound structures to ensure their safety and well being,” said Navy Commander Tamsen Reese, a spokeswoman for the detention operation.

Haitian schools were closed on Thursday and Friday. Schools were also closed in parts of Jamaica, where Tropical Storm Nicole killed 15 people more than a month ago.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva in Port-au-Prince, Horace Helps in Kingston and Kevin Gray and Jane Sutton in Miami; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Vicki Allen)

This service is not intended to encourage spam. The details provided by your colleague have been used for the sole purpose of facilitating this email communication and have not been retained by Thomson Reuters. Your personal details have not been added to any database or mailing list.

If you would like to receive news articles delivered to your email address, please subscribe at www.reuters.com/newsmails

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Thomson Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world.

Quotes and other data are provided for your personal information only, and are not intended for trading purposes. Thomson Reuters and its data providers shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the quotes or other data, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: