Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tropical Storm Isaac heaps more misery on Haiti

HAVANA — Tropical Storm Isaac pushed over Cuba on Saturday after sweeping across Haiti's southern peninsula, where it caused flooding and at least four deaths, adding to the misery of a poor nation still trying to recover from the terrible 2010 earthquake.

Isaac's center made landfall just before midday near the far-eastern tip of Cuba, downing trees and power lines. In the picturesque city of Baracoa, the storm surge flooded the seaside Malecon and a block inland, destroying two homes.

Haiti's Civil Protection Office also reported two injuries; "considerable damage" to agriculture and homes; nearly 8,000 people who were evacuated from their houses or quake shelters; and more than 4,000 who were taken to temporary shelters.

Doctors Without Borders said it anticipated a spike in cholera cases due to flooding and it was preparing to receive more patients.

The international airport reopened by the afternoon but there was still extensive flooding throughout Port-au-Prince after 24 hours of steady rain.

Cuba has a highly organized civil defense system that goes door-to-door to enforce evacuations of at-risk areas, largely averting casualties from storms even when they cause major flooding and significant damage to crops.

Near the island's southeastern tip, the U.S. military suspended ferry service at the Guantanamo Bay naval base and bunked guards inside prison facilities, but operations were returning to normal by late afternoon.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic evacuated nearly 7,800 people from low-lying areas, and at least 10 rural settlements were cut off by flooding, according to Juan Manuel Mendez, director of rescue teams. Power was knocked out in parts of the capital, Santo Domingo.

There were no reports of injuries, but 49 homes across the country were destroyed.

Authorities discontinued a tropical storm warning, but rainfall was expected to reach up to 12 inches over the weekend.

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