Haitians Bracing for Stalled Tropical Storm Emily

Posted August 4th, 2011 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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Haitians living in makeshift tent camps are bracing for possible life-threatening flashfloods and mudslides as a result of Tropical Storm Emily.

Some rain was already falling on southern Haiti early Thursday, but the center of the storm paused offshore, 170 kilometers southeast of Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti live in flimsy shanties, in the aftermath of last year's devastating earthquake that left the capital city in ruins.

Emily is packing maximum sustained winds of 85 kilometers an hour and forecasters say they expect the storm to resume a northwest track at 11 kilometers an hour. They predicted the storm would move faster during the next day or so across Haiti, and then head toward eastern Cuba late Thursday or early Friday.

The Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm could drop up to 50 centimeters of rain over Hispaniola, the island shared between impoverished Haiti and its wealthier neighbor, the Dominican Republic. The forecasters said the storm could cause life-threatening flashfloods and mudslides.

Haitian authorities asked people living in vulnerable areas of the refugee camps to evacuate. The country's weather service chief said the storm poses a “great danger” for Haitians.

Haiti's tent cities perched on hillsides are particularly at risk, because much of the landscape has been stripped bare of trees, which have been cut down for use as fuel or building materials. A slow-moving storm in June caused mudslides and flooding that killed at least 28 people.

Haiti is also fighting an outbreak of cholera that has killed more than 5,500 people and infected more than 360,000.