September 3, 2008 in Nation/World

Hanna floods low-lying Haitian city

Aid convoys unable to reach residents huddled on rooftops
By JONATHAN M. KATZ Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

People walk through flood water from Tropical Storm Hanna, in Savane Desole, northern Haiti, on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

Storms on the move

Hanna. Crawling over the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas, Hanna was downgraded to a tropical storm Tuesday morning with 70 mph winds. Forecasters expected it to pick up strength and become a hurricane again late Tuesday or today. As Hanna moves northwest this week and gains strength, the storm will jog up Florida’s East Coast. Landfall is projected near the Carolinas on Friday as a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane.

Ike. If forecasters’ estimates are correct, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands will be dealing with another hurricane soon after Hanna is out of their hair. Tropical Storm Ike is about halfway between the Caribbean and Africa, with 50 mph winds, on a path that’s due west. Forecasters say it could strengthen into a hurricane by today and reach the Turks and Caicos by Sunday as a Category 2 storm. It’s still unclear where Ike could go after this weekend.

Josephine. This quickly organizing storm could grow into a hurricane by today, but as of Tuesday its maximum winds were 40 mph. Josephine is still far away, just moving toward the Cape Verde Islands off Africa’s west coast. Forecasters think strengthening is inevitable as Josephine tracks west over warm water and no competing wind shear. This weekend it is forecast to be somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic between Florida and Africa.

McClatchy

SAINT-MARC, Haiti – Haitian families scrambled onto rooftops and screamed for help Tuesday in a city flooded by Tropical Storm Hanna, as U.N. peacekeepers and rescue convoys tried in vain to reach them.

Iris Norsil, 20, managed to flee the western coastal city of Gonaives and told the Associated Press that people there were isolated by muddy waters as evening fell, many seeking refuge on rooftops as wind gusts drove horizontal sheets of rain that flooded roads and buildings.

“They are screaming for help,” Norsil said as a U.N. aid convoy tried unsuccessfully to drive into Gonaives, now surrounded by a virtual lake of flood waters. A team of AP journalists accompanied the convoy.

Another convoy carrying Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis had to abandon efforts at getting into Gonaives when one of the cars was nearly swept away, said Julian Frantz, a Haitian police officer who was providing security for the group.

Flood waters rose rapidly outside Gonaives, where Norsil and scores of other residents who abandoned the low-lying city shivered violently in soaked clothing, nervously eyeing the rushing, debris-clogged waters.

“The situation is as bad as it can be,” said Vadre Louis, a U.N. official in Gonaives. “The wind is ripping up trees. Houses are flooded with water. Cars can’t drive on the street. You can’t rescue anyone, wherever they may be.”

Haitians clutched mattresses, chairs and other belongings as they slogged through waist-high floodwaters. The known death toll in northern Haiti was 13.

Hanna’s maximum sustained winds slipped to 65 mph, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it could regain hurricane strength and turn toward the east coast of Florida, Georgia or South Carolina in two to three days.

Heavy rain from the storm’s outer bands fell relentlessly in Haiti, a country still recovering from drenchings by Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Fay in the past two weeks. In all, floods and mudslides from the three storms have killed more than 100 people as Haiti’s deforested hills melted away in the torrential rains.

In Puerto Rico, flooding was blamed for the drowning death of a Colombian university student in a raging river. The man’s Brazilian friend was missing despite a desperate search in the water.

Swirling slowly through the southern Bahamas on Tuesday, Hanna lingered over the island of Great Inagua for hours, toppling power lines but otherwise doing little damage. There were reports of heavy winds stripping shingles from roofs and knocking down trees, but no injuries, said Chrystal Glinton, a spokeswoman for the Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency.

“Everyone is alive and well,” Glinton said. “The damages have been minimal.”

The same could not be said for Haiti, a country particularly vulnerable to devastating floods because of its steep terrain and hills that have been deforested for agriculture and by peasants who burn trees for charcoal.

© Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email