Tropical Storm Isaac has hit parts of eastern Cuba after sweeping across Haiti’s southern peninsula, where it caused flooding and at least four deaths.
Isaac’s centre made landfall just before midday on Saturday near the far-eastern tip of Cuba, downing trees and power lines.
In the eastern city of Baracoa, the storm surge flooded the seaside Malecon and came as far as one city block inland.
By late Saturday afternoon, Isaac’s centre was over eastern Cuba, 195km east of Camaguey, the US National Hurricane Centre said.
Rising winds and waves have prompted government alerts for 11 provinces. Flooding was reported in low-lying coastal areas and 230 people were in emergency shelters, according to Cuban state television.
More than 1,000 people were evacuated to the homes of friends and family ahead of possible flooding, state TV said.
Rain lashes Haiti
Isaac’s rain and winds lashed Haiti’s southern coast on Saturday, flooding parts of the capital Port-au-Prince and ripping through flimsy resettlement camps that house more than 350,000 survivors of the 2010 earthquake.
“We had never seen anything like this. Everyone fled to the church, but I didn’t want to leave my home. All my things are wet,” said Edeline Trevil, 47, who survived with her cat.
|A woman wades through flood waters as she tries to save her possessions from her home in Port au Prince [Reuters]|
“I’m cold! I’ve been wet since last night,” the shoeless woman added.
The storm caused power outages and flooding and blew off roofs as it moved across the hilly and severely deforested Caribbean country. Winds had died down by Saturday afternoon, but forecasters said rains would continue in Haiti.
Damage had so far been less than feared, said George Ngwa, Haiti spokesman for the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Fortunately there are no reports of serious damage,” he said.
About 300 homes in Cite Soleil lost their roofs or were flooded in waters that were one metre deep, according to Rachel Brumbaugh, operations manager for the US nonprofit group World Vision.
Authorities and UN troops worked to clear debris and fallen trees from roads.
The international airport reopened by the afternoon, but there was still extensive flooding throughout Port-au-Prince after 24 hours of steady rain.
Threat of cholera epidemic
Flooding and mudslides were still a threat in Haiti, where many people scrape by on less than $1 a day in the poorest country in the Americas.
Flooding could also reignite a cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 7,500 people in Haiti since the disease first appeared in October 2010, aid workers said.
Doctors Without Borders said it anticipated a spike in cholera cases due to flooding and it was preparing to receive more patients.
In the Dominican Republic, Isaac felled power and phone lines and left at least a dozen towns cut off by flood waters. Nearly one million people were without power, emergency officials said.
The most severe damage was reported along the south coast, including the capital Santo Domingo.
Forecasters said Isaac poses a threat to Florida on Monday and Tuesday, forcing organisers to effectively delay the start of the US Republican Party’s national convention in Tampa by a day.
It could eventually hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of nearly 160kph.