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Rains, flooding a threat in Haiti as Emily disintegrates

August 5, 2011

Heavy rain and potential flooding threatened hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in temporary quarters early Friday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Emily made a final stand across the central Caribbean.

Even as the storm dissipated, the National Hurricane Center said the system could still dump 6 to12 inches of rain on the island of Hispaniola — home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic — with isolated amounts up to 20 inches.

Winds that had once whipped Haiti with 65 mph gusts diminished to 10mph-20 mph overnight.

Meanwhile, in the Haitian capital, nearly 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers were on emergency standby. The streets in Port-au-Prince were emptier than normal Thursday, after the government declared the day a holiday in advance of the storm.

About 100 people were relocated into shelters in the southeast of Haiti, where the worst of the storm had been expected, Emmanuelle Schneider, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Thursday.

Only eight families had been evacuated in Port-au-Prince, she said, and others living in tents and tarps don’t want to leave their temporary homes.

The agency has more than 10,000 tents and tarpaulins in case the storm wrecks the temporary shelters, she said.

The United Nations had been making general preparations for the hurricane season when Emily threatened.

The government issued an alert advising residents that the storm’s heavy rains could produce dangerous flooding and mudslides.

The storm degenerated as it hit the mountains of Hispaniola Thursday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said. All storm warnings were canceled as a result.

“The circulation was disrupted enough by the mountains so now it’s just an average tropical wave,” said CNN Senior Meteorologist Dave Hennen. “Heavy rain and possible flooding is going to continue for the Dominican Republic and Haiti and there will be some rain and gusty wind through the Bahamas.”

Haiti continues to recover from the devastating earthquake that rocked the island in 2010. A cholera outbreak that was magnified by Hurricane Tomas last November, killed hundreds and infected nearly 2,000 people, the United Nations said. Many are worried flooding from heavy rains could renew the spread of the disease.

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