Hanna sweeps over Haiti killing 140; more storms approach

Other News Materials 5 September 2008 23:07 (UTC +04:00)

At least 136 people have died in Haiti as a result of Tropical Storm Hanna, officials said Friday, as it sped toward the southeastern US coast.

Forecasters at the Miami-based US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) were also tracking two other storms - Ike and Josephine - that have been brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and heading west.

The centre of Hanna was located about 180 kilometres east of Daytona Beach, Florida, and the storm was moving northwest with maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometres per hour.

In Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, residents were struggling to cope in the aftermath of Hanna, just after being lashed by Hurricane Gustav - which killed more than 70 people, and before that Tropical Storm Fay, which left at least 40 dead two weeks ago.

Helicopters of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti travelled to flooded areas to help Hanna's latest victims, but officials said many areas still remained out of reach.

As stranded people waited for aid, fresh water and food, they gathered on roof tops to escape the swirl of rising, muddy waters.

The authorities were also considering the possibility of evacuating the city of Gonaives, which was seriously impacted by the storm.

Gonaives had already been devastated in September 2004, after 3,000 people died in a mudslide caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne. On Friday, the disaster-prone city was flooded and remained cut-off from the outside world.

Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of civil protection in Haiti, said that a red alert issued Monday ahead of Tropical Storm Hanna's arrival, would be maintained as the country braced itself for Ike.

With maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometres per hour, Ike was developing as a category 3 hurricane on the 1-to-5 Saffir-Simpson scale and likely to hit the Bahamas first, the NHC said.

"Some weakening is forecast during the next 24 hours, but Ike is expected to be a major hurricane in a couple of days," the hurricane centre said Friday.

In the Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, Emergency Operations Centre director Juan Mendez warned that "the evacuation of all areas at risk was launched Wednesday and is compulsory."

He said at least three dams in the country were at full capacity, and as authorities started to release some of the water they moved residents from neighbouring towns.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Josephine weakened Friday with sustained winds of 75 kilometres per hour. Its centre was west of the Cape Verde Islands and as it moved west-northwest it was expected to weaken over the next 24 hours, dpa reported.