Slowing Tropical Storm Emily still aims at Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Emily slowed to a crawl on its path toward Haiti on Wednesday, but it was still taking aim at the chronically poor nation struggling to recover from last year's devastating earthquake.
Emily was about 50 miles southeast of Isla Beata in the southernmost Dominican Republic, near its border with Haiti, at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT Thursday), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, which had already unleashed heavy rains over both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, was packing sustained winds of 50 miles per hour. Its center was due to pass over southwest Haiti early on Thursday before churning across extreme eastern Cuba Thursday night.
Emily, the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, posed no immediate threat to oil and gas production facilities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. But if it survives its encounter with Hispaniola, the mountainous island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Miami-based hurricane center said it was likely to intensify later this week.
About 600,000 Haitians are still living under makeshift tents and tarpaulins following the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and shattered the capital, Port-au-Prince.
"When there is ordinary rain we can't stay here because water is running through the tents and no one can sleep," said Wideline Azemar, a 42-year-old mother of four who lives under a tarpaulin in a squalid Port-au-Prince camp.
"Now they're talking about a storm with a lot of wind and rain. I really don't know what to do. ... Only God knows what he will do for us," she said.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Emily could dump as much as 20 inches of rain on parts of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
Haiti is especially vulnerable to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides because of what experts describe as its near-total deforestation.
GOVERNMENT IN TURMOIL
Emily's feared passage across Haiti comes after lawmakers rejected Haitian President Michel Martelly's new choice for prime minister on Tuesday night, blocking his efforts to install a government and move ahead with the task of rebuilding the quake-shattered country.
It was the second rejection of Martelly's choice for a premier since his inauguration in May and a serious blow to the leadership of the former pop star, who was elected on promises to lift Haiti out of grinding poverty.
Martelly's supporters had argued unsuccessfully in parliament that preparations for potential disasters like hurricanes were among the leading reasons he urgently needed to put a government in place. But his candidate was rejected due to alleged links to human rights violations.
The U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti lamented "the absence of a government" under Martelly in a statement late on Wednesday. "This limits the state's ability to implement its programs, to guide the reconstruction process and to meet its responsibilities toward the people of Haiti," it said.
The onslaught of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season was a particular cause for concern, the statement added.
Pressing tasks in Haiti include fighting a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 6,000 people since October. It could easily be exacerbated by flooding and contamination of food and water supplies.
Tracking forecasts have shown Emily posing an uncertain threat as it bears down on the southeast U.S. coast, including Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, by late on Saturday or early Sunday.
In its advisory, the hurricane center said "the threat to Florida and the southeastern United States will increase" if the storm failed to start taking a projected northwest turn.
The latest forecasts for Emily show it hitting the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands on Thursday. Tropical storm conditions were also expected in the central Bahamas by Thursday night and possibly in the northwestern Bahamas on Friday.
Emily could strengthen into a low-level Category 1 hurricane on Monday, when it is projected to move out over the open Atlantic Ocean, forecasters said.
(Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Todd Eastham)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this