PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Hurricane Tomas flooded camps of earthquake refugees Friday, turning some into squalid islands as it battered Haiti’s rural western tip, while largely sparing the vast homeless encampments in the shattered capital.
Aid workers rushed to guard against the spread of disease as the storm moved into the region where thousands are infected with cholera.
Driving 85 mph winds and a lashing storm surge battered Leogane, a seaside town west of Port-au-Prince that was 90 percent destroyed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
In one refugee camp, dozens of families carried their belongings through thigh-high floodwaters to a taxi stand on higher ground, huddling under blankets and a sign that read “Welcome to Leogane.”
“We got flooded out and we’re just waiting for the storm to pass. There’s nothing we can do,” said Johnny Joseph, a 20-year-old resident.
Four deaths were confirmed by Haitian officials, all people attempting to cross rivers by car or on foot in the mountainous region to the west of Leogane, on Haiti’s far southwestern tip. Two more people were missing in Leogane.
It could be days before the storm’s impact is known as reports filter in from isolated mountain towns cut off by the flooding. But as officials took stock and aid workers rushed to contain flood damage and the widening cholera epidemic, the storm left harsh reminders of poverty’s toll on the Caribbean nation.
“We have two catastrophes that we are managing. The first is the hurricane and the second is cholera,” President Rene Preval told the nation in a television and radio address.