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Floods threaten villages in Haiti

L’ESTERE, Haiti – Rivers rose to dangerous levels in Haiti’s rural center Thursday even as Tropical Storm Emily broke apart and became a wet low pressure system after dumping rains over Haiti and the southwestern corner of the Dominican Republic.

At least 50 homes were in danger of being flooded in the rice-farming village of L’Estere in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley, where a government worker tried to persuade people to leave their small cinderblock and wooden homes. Nearby, a dozen homes were already inundated with chocolate-brown water.

The government worker asking people to leave, Max Obed Desir, said most refused because they wanted to protect their belongings in the remote region, where heavy rain already had been falling for weeks and the arrival of Emily worsened the situation.

Civil protection authorities could not estimate the danger posed by flooding in the countryside Thursday night, but Desir said other villages faced the same threat. The Artibonite is particularly prone to flooding because the surrounding mountains have been almost completely deforested by people clearing trees for agriculture and to make charcoal.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said all hurricane watches and warnings had been canceled but heavy rains were continuing to fall over the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Emily dropped more than 5 inches around the southwestern Dominican city of Barahona.