Storm heaps misery on Haiti

Heavy rains and strong winds destroy thousands of tents of some of the 1.3m people homeless after January's earthquake.

    At least five people were killed as rains and high winds battered Port-au-Prince [EPA]

    A sudden, powerful storm has destroyed thousands of tents in camps set up for Haitians made homeless by an earthquake eight months ago.

    At least five people were killed were killed, including two children, and hundreds of others injured as rains and high winds battered the capital, Port-au-Prince.

    Hundreds of thousands of families continue to live on the streets of the city waiting for temporary housing or funds for renting accommodation following the January 12 earthquake, which killed at least 230,000 people and destroyed the homes of millions more.

    Preliminary estimates on Saturday by the United Nations found that more than 2,000 tents had been damaged or destroyed in the storm, but officials said that number could rise above 5,000 when assessments are complete.

    "Thousands of tents have been destroyed or damaged or simply blown away by wind gusts. We began evacuating people to schools and other shelters," Nadia Lochard, a civil protection official, said.

    Flimsy tents

    The storm's effect was exacerbated by the flimsiness of tarps and tents that have been baking, soaking and flapping in the elements since the quake.

    "Many of the tents that were destroyed had reached their end of lifespan," Gerhard Tauscher, the shelter cluster co-ordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross, said.

    As many as 10 per cent of such shelters were destroyed in some areas of the capital by the sudden squall, with damage concentrated in central urban areas, Tauscher said.

    International aid agencies' facilities at the camps, including office tents and clinics, were also badly damaged.

    "[Our] infrastructure has been ripped up: the house, the office, child-friendly spaces. The clinic held up pretty well and there wasn't any one person hurt. But trees fell and the place looks an absolute mess," Emmett Fitzgerald of the American Refugee Council, who manages the 26,000-person camp at Terrain Acra, said.

    Reconstruction has barely begun despite billions of dollars pledged for Haiti in the wake of the disaster. Less than 15 per cent of money promised at the UN donor's conference in March has been delivered.

    The United States, which spent more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid after the quake, has not delivered any of its promised long-term funds.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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