Thousands of Haitians at risk from flooding and disease after tropical storm Isaac


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The Independent US

Thousands of people in Haiti remain at risk from flooding and disease despite the earthquake-ravaged nation avoiding the worst of tropical storm Isaac, according to British aid agencies.

At least four people were reported dead and thousands were evacuated from their homes as torrential downpours and near hurricane strength winds lashed the Caribbean nation.

Oxfam said initial assessments of the aftermath of the storm, which cleared the country's landmass yesterday, suggest the damage was not as great as feared.

Charity workers are now battling to get emergency supplies to the worst hit areas of the nation, which was rocked by a massive earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people two years ago.

Nearly 8,000 people were evacuated from their homes as 24 hours of steady rain caused widespread flooding and left makeshift camps built after the 2010 earthquake submerged by water.

The storm, which is expected to develop into a hurricane before reaching Florida, also laid waste to crops, knocked down telephone lines and wiped out power supplies in the worst hit areas.

According to Oxfam, camps in the capital Port-au-Prince, such as Jean Marie Vincent, were flooded, as well as towns in the south, including Les Cayes, Jacmel and Nippes.

Heavy rainfall is forecast in the wake of the storm, with up to 20 inches of rain predicted in Hispaniola.

The charity said that nearly 400,000 Haitians still living in refugee camps after the earthquake remained "highly vulnerable" to the threat of flooding, landslides and water borne diseases, especially cholera.

It said emergency teams are heading to the affected areas of the island to carry out in-depth assessments and provide clean water, hygiene kits and information about sanitation to those in need.

Jane Cocking, Oxfam's humanitarian director, said: "The storm may have passed but living conditions in Haiti remain so challenging for so much of the population that it's far too early to say the threat is over.

"People in Haiti have so little that they are incredibly vulnerable to the risks posed by flooding and disease. They remain in desperate need of our help."

The aid agency is in the process of contacting its supporters to ask for donations to help support its emergency work in Haiti, which is often cited as the poorest country in the western hemisphere with four in five of the population living on less than two US dollars a day.

John Chaloner, form international children's charity Plan UK, said: "In Port-au-Prince and the west and south east of the country, we are dealing with flooding and uprooted trees blocking roads - as well as fallen electricity poles which means long power outages are expected. There are a lot of worried people here."

In the shanty town of Cite Soleil, just north of Port-au-Prince, around 300 homes had either their roofs blown off or were sitting in three feet of water, according to Rachel Brumbaugh, operation manager for the US non-profit group World Vision.