by Staff Writers
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Aug 4, 2011
Haitians heaved a sigh of relief Thursday as a storm brought some flooding to the south but was felled by the mountains, sparing quake refugees living in tent cities from more misery.
By late afternoon, Tropical Storm Emily had been downgraded to a trough of low pressure by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), although it warned the island of Hispaniola was still being soaked by heavy rains.
The capital Port-au-Prince appeared to have escaped the brunt of the winds and rain, but officials said 300 families had been flooded in the north and heavy rains were battering the southern towns of Jacmel and Cayes.
In its latest advisory at 2100 GMT, the NHC said only "remnants" of Emily were left as the storm had degenerated after hurtling against the mountains.
It canceled all storm warnings and watches for Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, and advised it was discontinuing any further notices.
But in northern Haiti, buildings used to treat cholera victims were flooded, the public health ministry said, adding that patients should seek treatment in hospitals.
Haiti is still recovering from the devastating 2010 quake that killed an estimated 225,000 people. Some 300,000 people are still homeless, living in makeshift camps.
The country has also been battling an outbreak of cholera, which has killed 5,506 people and infected 363,117, and there were fears that flooding and sodden conditions could aid the spread of the water-borne disease.
Gary Shaye, Haiti director of Save the Children, warned young ones could be at particular risk from the bad weather and any flooding.
"Children are particularly vulnerable to landslides and other weather-related events, so it is critical that parents are keeping a close eye and seeking safe spaces to wait out the storm," he said in a statement.
About 30 tent cities had been identified as being particularly at risk, and authorities had established an evacuation plan but it was not put into effect.
There were still fears the wet conditions could bring tragedy, as the hillsides around the island are mostly bare, having been long since stripped of trees in the hunt for fuel and building materials.
"Landslides are of course a threat, but even simply heavy rain has the potential to worsen the volatile sanitation conditions in camps, which, with cholera still prevalent in Haiti, is a serious concern," said Harry Donsbach, earthquake response director for Christian charity group World Vision.
Authorities had canceled all domestic flights and shut down government buildings, urging Haitians not to leave their homes if possible. The visa section at the US embassy in the capital Port-au-Prince was closed.
Haitian officials had hoisted a red alert, fearful some 300,000 Haitians still living in makeshift camps almost 19 months after the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake could face flash floods and wet conditions.
Even though Emily had weakened, it could still dump 15-30 centimeters (six to 12 inches) of rain with isolated amounts of up to 51 centimeters (20 inches) possible over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the NHC said.
In the Dominican Republic, more than 5,000 people threatened by floods had been evacuated.
In the Pacific Ocean, meanwhile, Hurricane Eugene weakened to a category two storm far off Mexico's western coast, and was expected to weaken even further possibly becoming a tropical storm by Friday.
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Tropical storm Don aims for Texas coast
Miami (AFP) July 28, 2011
Tropical storm Don strengthened slightly on Thursday as it churned through the Gulf of Mexico toward the southeast coast of Texas, the National Hurricane Center said. At 18h00 GMT on Thursday, Don was 475 miles (765 kilometers) from Corpus Christi and 430 miles from Brownsville, both on the Gulf coast. The storm was expected to make landfall Friday or Saturday. Maximum sustained winds ha ... read more
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