Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Haiti blasted by third deadly tropical storm in under three weeks

A Haitian man cuts up a tree felled by severe weather from Tropical Storm Hanna in Kenscoff, Haiti.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP): Ten people were killed as Hanna lashed the north of Haiti Tuesday, the third deadly tropical storm to unleash its wrath on the impoverished Caribbean nation in under three weeks.

Haiti's third largest city, Gonaives, was under water, and officials pleaded for help in a region still traumatized by flooding from Tropical Storm Jeanne four years ago that killed more than 3,000 people.

"The situation in Gonaives is extremely urgent. I appeal for help," said Stephen Moise, mayor of the city of 300,000, 94 miles north of Port-au-Prince.

Jeanne's driving rains in the northern mountains of Haiti caused severe flooding and mudslides in the Artibonite region, especially in Gonaives. The storm killed 3,006 people in Haiti, with 2,826 of those in Gonaives.

"Practically the whole city is flooded, there is water everywhere. The water is rising in some areas to more than two meters (six feet)," Moise told AFP by telephone.

"The situation is critical today, it can be compared with what happened four years ago," Moise said.

Gonaives residents reached by telephone said floodwaters had reached the ceilings of some homes, forcing inhabitants to seek safety on the roof.

"I have seen about 10 bodies floating in the flooded streets of the city," Ernst Dorfeuille of the Gonaives police told AFP by phone.

"I don't know how long we will stay alive," a clearly panicked father, Germain Michelet, told AFP. "If we have to go another night in these conditions, there will not be a lot of survivors."

The latest devastation came as Haiti was still reeling from Hurricane Gustav, which killed 77 people and left eight others missing after barreling by the south of the hemisphere's most impoverished country only a week ago.

And only two weeks ago Tropical Storm Fay sparked flooding that left about 40 people dead.

Flooding in hardscrabble Haiti is a persistent problem. Its force is felt in part due to Haiti's mountainous geography. And deforestation -- as Haitians cut down trees and bushes as fuel for cooking fires -- exacerbates the flooding disasters.

Hanna lost some wind strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm Tuesday with driving rains that could spark deadly flooding in Haiti and eastern Cuba, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami warned.

With Hanna packing sustained winds of 70 miles per hour, it was expected to churn on a track taking it over the southeastern Bahamas Tuesday and the central Bahamas late Tuesday and Wednesday, the NHC said at 11:00 am.

It said Hanna could dump up to 20 inches in the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands, and up to 12 inches in the central Bahamas.

"Rainfall amounts of two to four inches with maximum amounts of up to eight inches (20 centimeters) are expected over the mountainous terrain of eastern Cuba and northern portions of Hispaniola (shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic) where these rains could cause life-threatening mudslides and flash flooding," the NHC warned.

Hanna could regain hurricane Wednesday or Thursday, the NHC added.

Officials here said some 15,000 Haitian families were affected by Gustav, which leveled some 3,000 dwellings and damaged another 11,458.

At least 77 people died in Haiti after it was hit by Gustav, which blasted Louisiana with powerful winds and rain as a Category Two hurricane on Monday. Gustav later weakened as it passed overland and was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Gustav killed a total of more than 100 people as it tore across the Caribbean and into the United States.

Source: CNN

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