* Hurricane Tomas causes floods, six people killed
* Thousands evacuate flooded homes, camps
* Aid workers fear floods could worsen cholera epidemic
(Recasts with quotes, details)
By Matthew Bigg
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 6 Earthquake-hit Haiti
escaped a fresh disaster threatened by Hurricane Tomas, but the
storm caused flooding, forced thousands from their homes and
increased humanitarian challenges posed by a cholera epidemic,
aid workers said on Saturday.
But government officials and relief workers were relieved
that the hurricane, now a tropical storm over the Atlantic,
largely spared crowded camps in the Haitian capital housing 1.3
million quake survivors.
Tomas skirted the west of Haiti on Friday, flooding some
coastal towns and soaking camps for displaced people in the
capital Port-au-Prince with overnight rain.
Six people died, all outside the capital, the government
said on Saturday, revising the figure of seven dead it released
on Friday. About 10,000 people left their homes voluntarily to
escape floodwaters, it said.
That was a light toll compared with the destruction
inflicted by hurricanes and storms that battered the Western
Hemisphere's poorest county in 2004 and 2008, killing several
thousand people. More than 250,000 people died in the Jan. 12
earthquake that struck the poor Caribbean country.
United Nations officials said Haiti was lucky it was not
harder hit by Tomas, an unpredictable late hurricane in the
busy 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.
"People were well prepared, there was good cooperation
between the government and the aid community and we have
avoided the worst," said Elisabeth Diaz, spokeswoman for the
U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
After raking Haiti with rains, waves and wind, Tomas swept
over the Turks and Caicos islands early on Saturday. There were
no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties.
By midday Saturday, Tomas was moving northeastward over the
open Atlantic, posing no threat to land.
Other links: www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Insurance Linked Securities:
While sparing Haiti widespread destruction or mass
casualties, the hurricane still created a major disruption
weeks before presidential and legislative elections set for
Nov. 28. Electoral officials have not postponed the vote.
With flooding reported in a number of locations, aid
workers were worried that a two-week cholera epidemic that has
killed more than 440 people and sickened more than 6,700 could
worsen. The deadly diarrheal disease is transmitted by
contaminated water and food.
Relief agencies were rushing clean drinking water and food
to areas affected by the floods.
One of the worst hit zones was Leogane, a town west of
Port-au-Prince badly damaged in the January earthquake. Some
90,000 people there were already living in tent camps.
Flooding was also reported in the coastal towns of Les
Cayes, Jacmel and Gonaives.
APPEAL TO DONORS
The British charity Save the Children said floodwaters in
Leogane had affected some 35,000 people, turning streets into
"rivers," destroying possessions and washing out tents.
"People here are telling us that they need food and clean
water. This town was decimated by the earthquake and it's
essential we get help to these families fast," said Gary Shaye,
country director for Save the Children in Haiti.
Thousands of children in Leogane were now at increased risk
of diseases like cholera, diarrhea and malaria, he said.
Haiti's government and the United Nations appealed to
donors on Friday for nearly $19 million to cover urgent needs.
Dispatched by the U.S. military to help with Haiti relief
operations, the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima was ready
to send in helicopters, landing craft, engineers and public
health officials, U.S. officials said.
"Now the priority is to help the people," Haitian Prime
Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said. President Rene Preval was
touring the south coast by helicopter to assess damage.
In Port-au-Prince, still scarred by the Jan. 12 earthquake,
hundreds of thousands of homeless survivors sat out the storm
under rain-drenched tents and tarpaulins.
"The situation is bad. My tent has lots of holes in it, so
we got wet," said Renette Dornis, 38, who lives with her three
children in a tent at the Acra 1 camp in the capital.
Jamaica escaped major damage from Tomas, but rains forced
the evacuation of several thousand people in eastern Cuba and
the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbor on Hispaniola island.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva in
Port-au-Prince, Horace Helps in Kingston, Manuel Jimenez in
Santo Domingo, Jeff Franks in Havana; Editing by Pascal
Fletcher and Stacey Joyce)