Death toll rises as Haiti floods

Thursday 09th Jun 2011 by theWeather Club

Torrential rainstorms are causing chaos in cholera-stricken Haiti, as the number of fatalities caused by the floods continues to rise.

Coming less than a year after the earthquake which left much of the city's population homeless, the rainstorms have been particular damaging in areas where accommodation continues to be temporary. In the so-called "tent city" erected after the quake struck last year, two people were swept away after days of heavy rain swelled rivers and over-spilled into the camps. Some camps reported flooding of up to 1.2m.

The tragedy has by no means been confined to poorer areas. In the upscale suburb of Petionville, 13 people died in a series of landslides, which shook the hillside town so hard that in one incident a large concrete house toppled into a ravine, killing two people and injuring many more.

Nevertheless the majority of casualties have been in the impoverished town of Port au Prince, where incessant rainfall has toppled trees and turned the streets into muddy rivers. Yesterday humanitarian workers warned that the wet weather could worsen the country's cholera outbreak, which has already claimed 5,300 lives in the past eight months.

"The situation continues to deteriorate," Beat Rohr, director of CARE in Haiti, told journalists earlier today. "We never stopped sensitizing the population about the importance of clean water and the need to wash their hands regularly. But it won't be enough."

Meanwhile residents and officials alike have raised concerns about the ability of the country to cope with a major storm, should one strike during the hurricane season. "If these rains can cause so much damage, what would happen if there was a real disaster?" Angeline Mauger, 38, pointed out to Reuters.

This storm, which marks the first of the six-month long Atlantic hurricane season, is believed to have been precipitated by the combination of the monsoon trough – a line of storms caused when winds from southern hemisphere meet wind from northerner hemisphere and collide, forcing air upwards – and an area of low pressure, which intensified the rainstorms and stopped them moving on.

With forecasters predicting the weather pattern will move across the Caribbean over the next few days, The United States National Hurricane Centre warned the rains could also cause flash floods and mudslides in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. In the meantime, Haitians and aid agencies are gearing themselves up for the downpours expected to strike again over the coming week.