Tropical Storm Franklin has made landfall on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, dumping heavy rains on the Caribbean nation and its neighbour on the island of Hispaniola, Haiti.
Franklin was expected to swirl above the island for most of Wednesday, with forecasters warning the storm could dump up to 250mm (10 inches) of rain, with a maximum of 380mm (15 inches) for the central region of Hispaniola.
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The storm has raised concerns that deadly landslides and heavy flooding could be triggered in both countries.
The US National Hurricane Center said in an advisory on Wednesday morning that Franklin was moving northwards and was expected to cross Hispaniola throughout the day before emerging over the southwest Atlantic Ocean.
In the Caribbean, officials were most concerned about the impact in Haiti, which is vulnerable to catastrophic flooding given the country’s severe erosion.
The Haitian civil protection agency warned on Wednesday morning that the storm was expected to bring strong winds and rain to several regions across the nation.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry urged Haitians a day earlier to stock up on water, food and medication as authorities checked on some of the more than 200,000 people displaced by gang violence, with some living on the street or in makeshift shelters.
“We are fully committed to provide safe shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance to all those who might be affected by the storm,” Henry wrote on social media.
“Local authorities, relief agencies and partner organisations are working hand-in-hand so that no one is left behind.”
Some recalled how a powerful thunderstorm that unleashed heavy rains one day in June killed more than 40 people across Haiti.
“This is not an unfamiliar reality for people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Yet, Haitians have still not caught their breath from the impact of recent flooding just two months ago,” Adib Fletcher, senior regional director for Latin America at the humanitarian group Project HOPE.
“As the climate crisis continues to intensify the frequency and severity of storms, both Haiti and the Dominican Republic’s healthcare systems urgently need additional resources to prepare for future crises in order to provide timely care, crucial in preventing outbreaks of diseases like cholera and other water-borne illnesses,” Fletcher said in a statement on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, authorities had placed 25 provinces under a red alert for possible flooding of rivers, streams and creeks. Seven provinces were under a yellow alert.
Flooding had already been reported on Tuesday in the capital of Santo Domingo and beyond, where residents prepared for heavy rainfall.
“We’re scared of the river,” said Doralisa Sanchez, a government employee who lives near the Ozama River that divides the capital.
Sanchez, who has had to flee her home three times during previous storms, said she hoped Franklin wouldn’t force her to seek shelter and temporarily abandon her home again because she said people steal belongings left behind.
Others, like businesswoman Albita Achangel, worried they had nowhere to go if the waters started rising.
“We are hoping for God’s will,” she said, adding that her patio already was flooded.
The United Nations’ World Food Programme said it had stationed emergency response teams and food in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
It estimated that about 125,000 Dominicans in Franklin’s path live in overcrowded settlements that may be more vulnerable to flooding.