Tropical storm set to add to Haiti's misery

Approaching Storm Emily is big worry for the 600,000 Haitians still living in tents.

by
    Hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tented communities after the earthquake in January 2010 [GETTY]

    It started as an area of intense thunderstorms over the Lesser Antilles islands of St Lucia, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Then during the early hours of Tuesday, the storm became more structured and developed rotation and Tropical Storm Emily was born.

    Even before it had finished developing into a tropical storm, the system was already producing a lot of heavy rain. Arnos Vale on Saint Vincent reported 13.4cm in a 24-hour period.

    Although the island is tropical, this is an enormous amount of rain; in fact it’s about half the monthly average and led to widespread flooding.

    This is bad news for the island which had already seen far more rain than usual. Earlier this year the country saw serious flooding, which was bad enough to damage some of the country’s infrastructure.

    Tropical Storm Emily is now clearing the Lesser Antilles, and is spiralling northwest, towards the island of Hispanola. Both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are expecting a direct hit.

    Although this storm will not be welcome in either country, the consequences for Haiti are likely to be far more serious than for its neighbour.

    Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, so has always struggled to cope with the aftermath of natural disasters.

    It's fairly common for tropical storms to hit the country, and deforestation has made Haiti increasingly vulnerable to flooding, but now the situation is even more dire.

    In 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the capital Port-au-Prince, which devastated the city and led to the death of tens of thousands of people. Immediately after the quake, it's estimated that 1.5 million people were housed in impromptu settlements.

    Even 19 months later, it's estimated that 630,000 Haitians are still without homes, living in tented communities across the hillsides of Port-au-Prince.

    There are now efforts to remove the semi-permanent communities, and in dozens of places the property owners have forced people to move out.

    Now those living in tents are facing another problem – the threat from Tropical Storm Emily. It's forecast to hit the country at approximately 00 GMT on Thursday, but fortunately isn't expected to intensify too much before it does so.

    This means the winds should not cause too much damage, but the rainfall is a different matter: this storm is expected to deliver 15cm of rain, with a few areas receiving up to 25cm.

    If this storm follows the forecast and hits Haiti, then it will cause widespread flooding, potentially triggering landslides as well. This will be hazardous to anyone in the country, and tarpaulin will provide little, if any, protection.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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