Haiti may not get brunt of Emily
But heavy rains raise cholera risk, fear of landslides
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The worst rainfall from Tropical Storm Emily was expected to miss the Haitian capital today, but there could be enough to cause severe flooding and increased misery in a country where 630,000 people are still without permanent housing.
Rain already was falling on Port-au-Prince’s eastern side by yesterday afternoon. A UN aid group distributed cholera prevention kits to help fight the waterborne disease, and the government set up a new network of shelters.
Many Haitians are still living in flimsy shanties after last year’s earthquake.
The center of the storm brushed the southwestern corner of the Dominican Republic late yesterday and was expected to reach Haiti’s southwestern peninsula early today.
The mountains dividing the countries could weaken Emily. But intense rain posed a threat to the two nations that share Hispaniola island, said Diana Goeller, a meteorologist with the US National Hurricane Center.
Tracking maps showed the storm’s path changing, veering westward. A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the southeast Bahamas, eastern parts of Cuba, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“This storm has a lot of heavy rainfall with it,’’ Goeller said. “So in those mountainous areas, there could be very dangerous, life-threatening mudslides or flash floods.’’
Michel Davison of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said parts of the Dominican Republic could see up to 20 inches of rain within 36 hours. Up to 10 inches is expected in rural Haiti.
The storm had already dropped up to 10 inches of rain in parts of Puerto Rico, though its center never got within 100 miles of the island, forecasters said.
Local authorities urged people to conserve food and safeguard their belongings and prepared a fleet of buses to evacuate people from flooded areas.
The United Nations peacekeeping force in the country told its 11,500 troops to be on standby to provide aid. The International Red Cross alerted emergency teams that have access to relief supplies already in place for up to 125,000 people throughout the country.
Haiti’s government urged people to evacuate their neighborhoods if there is flooding, but Vania Zamor said she had no plans to leave. She feared thieves might break into her sheet metal shack and steal the beans and rice she sells as a merchant.
Besides, “it’s going to be very hard for us to leave because people rely on us,’’ said Zamor, a 39-year-old camp leader in a ravine shanty in the Petionville section south of Port-au-Prince.