PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A U.S. Navy vessel, the amphibious warfare ship Iwo Jima, was steaming toward Haiti on Tuesday to provide disaster relief in case Tropical Storm Tomas strikes late in the week as forecast, possibly as a Category 2 hurricane.
The storm has already caused 14 deaths in the eastern Caribbean. Haiti issued its highest storm warning to inform people they may need to evacuate, though most have nowhere to go after the catastrophe of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Tomas would be the first big storm to strike Haiti since the earthquake killed as many as 300,000 people and forced millions from their homes. It would also be the first tropical storm or hurricane to hit since 2008, when four storms battered Haiti in the space of a month, killing nearly 800 people and wiping out 15 percent of the economy.
A hurricane over the weekend, Tomas was meandering through the central Caribbean on Tuesday with maximum winds of 40 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Its center was about 385 miles south-southwest of Port-au-Prince and moving west near 14 mph. Forecasters predict it will veer north toward Haiti and regain hurricane strength as it approaches, perhaps by Friday.