Two days of heavy rains and the resulting floods have killed at least three people in Haiti, according to the head of the country’s civil protection authority.
The death toll was reported on Tuesday, hours after rescuers began evacuating people in high-risk zones, where thousands of homes have been flooded and some 2,500 families have been displaced.
The north of the country has been the hardest hit, with water filling the historic centre of the city of Cap-Haitien, and strong winds downing trees. Authorities said at least 20 districts across Haiti have been affected by the violent weather.
“We have 3 fatalities in the (Nord-Ouest department) and one person missing,” civil protection director Jerry Chandler told Reuters news agency in a text message.
The rains are the most recent natural disaster to strike the Caribbean nations, where death tolls are often high due to the poor state of housing and lacking infrastructure. The disasters have compounded the dire state of the country’s economy, with high rates of crime and insecurity worsened by a political crisis in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.
Authorities said the storm has affected areas that are still trying to recover from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the country in August, killing more than 2,000 people.
The rains also flooded a power plant and caused a bridge to collapse, leaving one community isolated.
In one town, people waded through waist-deep water as they tried to rescue a motorcycle and other belongings, The Associated Press news agency reported.
Some families grabbed each other by the hand as they battled flowing floodwaters while balancing large bags of clothes and other items on their heads.
Precariously built housing and lacking infrastructure has typically made the fallout of natural disasters distinctly severe in Haiti. Moreover, flood-prone areas are frequently home to poor and densely populated communities.
In 2010, an estimated 316,000 people were killed in a massive earthquake near the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti is already in crisis, suffering political divisions after the assassination of Moise, with gang violence and kidnappings on the rise and deepening poverty.