Hurricane floods quake-devasted Haiti

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The Independent US

Hurricane Tomas flooded the earthquake-shattered remains of a Haitian town today, forcing families who had already lost their homes in one disaster to flee another.

Driving winds and storm surge battered Leogane, a seaside town west of the capital Port-au-Prince that was near the epicentre of the January 12 earthquake and was 90 per cent destroyed.

Dozens of families in one earthquake refuge camp took their belongings through thigh-high water to high ground, waiting out the rest of the storm under blankets.

"We got flooded out and we're just waiting for the storm to pass. There's nothing we can do," said Johnny Joseph, a 20-year-old resident.

The storm, with 85mph winds, was battering the western tip of Haiti's southern peninsula and the cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes.

One man drowned while trying to cross a river in an SUV in the rural area of Grand-Anse, said civil protection official Pierre Andre.

The hurricane had earlier killed at least 14 people in the eastern Caribbean.

The centre of the storm was 157 miles from Port-au-Prince, draping black clouds over the city and dropping a steady rain with occasional bursts of wind. There were no immediate reports of damage.

The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami predicted dangerous storm surges along the coast and possible flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas.

Haiti's civil protection department had urged people living in camps for the 1.3 million Haitians made homeless by the January 12 earthquake to go to the homes of friends and family - though many had not heeded the advice.

Buses began circulating around the camps just after dark last night to take residents away, but few were willing to go. Four civil protection buses that pulled up at a camp in the Canape-Vert district left with only about five passengers on them.

Many camp residents stayed put out of fear they would lose their few possessions and, worse, be denied permission to return when the storm was over.

"I'm scared that if I leave they'll tear this whole place down. I don't have money to pay for a home somewhere else," said Clarice Napoux, 21, who lives with her boyfriend on a field behind the St Therese church in Petionville. They lost their house to the quake and their only income is the little she makes selling uncooked rice, beans and dry goods.

At the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in south-eastern Cuba, the military cleared away any debris that could fly off in strong winds, suspended flights, cancelled school and closed the harbour to recreational craft as the storm neared.

"We have a well-rehearsed plan that is going to serve us well," said Navy Commander James Thornton, Guantanamo Bay's operations officer.