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Storm season finds Haitians at high risk

Associated Press / June 1, 2010

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A hurricane season predicted to be one of the wettest on record opens today in the Caribbean, where hundreds of thousands of Haitian earthquake victims have only tarps or fraying tents to protect them in a major storm.

The Haitian government says it is still working on emergency and evacuation plans. But since the Jan. 12 earthquake killed up to 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless, there has been little progress on clearing rubble so people can return to their neighborhoods or build sturdier shelters.

The quake has forced Haiti to update its storm contingency plans, said Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, including repositioning emergency food and equipment. And a response team has been set up to deal with rain emergencies in camps.

However, the moderate spring rains that already drench Port-au-Prince almost daily leave camp residents up to their knees in putrid water.

Claudia Toussaint, a 24-year-old camped near a golf course, dug a shallow channel in the dirt under her tarp in a futile effort to keep her mattress dry.

“When it rains, we don’t have anywhere to go,’’ she said.

Serious flooding could cause mass casualties even with thousands of aid workers present.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted as many as 23 named tropical storms.

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