Tropical Storm Isaac barrels towards Haiti
CNN) — Tropical Storm Isaac churned toward the island of Hispaniola on Friday and could be near hurricane strength at landfall.
Though it may not hit Haiti at hurricane strength, that does little to assuage aid groups who fear another disaster in the vulnerable country.
Isaac is expected to whip the Caribbean nation with gale-force winds and stinging rain later Friday. The country was under a hurricane watch.
“Our experience in Haiti clearly indicates that it is not the storm or the winds, it’s the rain that causes the problems,” said Sinan Al-Najjar, the Red Cross’ deputy country representative in Haiti. “When rain comes, landslides and flash floods do happen in Haiti. We are trying to focus on which are the flood areas, which are the risk areas.”
Hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the devastating 2010 earthquake continue to live in camps.
With floodwater comes the risk of another outbreak of cholera, an infection of the large intestine that causes severe diarrhea.
“After floods, it’s going to be almost certain that we see increases in cholera cases,” Al-Najjar said. “We already witnessed that with the few weeks of rain we had in April. We had spikes due to daily rain. If a flood comes, we know certainly cholera is going to be an issue.”
The eye of the storm was approaching the southern coast of Hispaniola on Friday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. Haiti shares the island with the Dominican Republic.
As of 2 p.m. ET, Isaac was 135 miles south-southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, and 160 miles southwest of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. It had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, the hurricane center in Miami said.
The storm was moving northwest at 14 mph.
Rainfall accumulations of 8 to 12 inches are expected, with maximum amounts of 20 inches possible over Hispaniola.
“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” forecasters warned.
Many of the Haitians living in camps had no idea that a storm was coming, CNN correspondent Gary Tuchman reported from Port-au-Prince. Not until a translator told them that Isaac was nearing did people in the streets know of the storm’s approach or that the government had opened some shelters.
Residents of one tent community said they were staying put with their belongings and would ride out the storm.