From: Joseph Guyler-Delva, Reuters, PORT-AU-PRINCE
Published August 4, 2011 06:44 AM

Tropical Storm Emily slows, aims at Haiti

Tropical Storm Emily slowed to a crawl on its path toward Haiti on Wednesday, but it was still taking aim at the chronically poor nation struggling to recover from last year's devastating earthquake.


Emily was about 50 miles southeast of Isla Beata in the southernmost Dominican Republic, near its border with Haiti, at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT Thursday), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, which had already unleashed heavy rains over both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, was packing sustained winds of 50 miles per hour. Its center was due to pass over southwest Haiti early on Thursday before churning across extreme eastern Cuba Thursday night.

Emily, the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, posed no immediate threat to oil and gas production facilities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. But if it survives its encounter with Hispaniola, the mountainous island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Miami-based hurricane center said it was likely to intensify later this week.

About 600,000 Haitians are still living under makeshift tents and tarpaulins following the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and shattered the capital, Port-au-Prince.

"When there is ordinary rain we can't stay here because water is running through the tents and no one can sleep," said Wideline Azemar, a 42-year-old mother of four who lives under a tarpaulin in a squalid Port-au-Prince camp.

"Now they're talking about a storm with a lot of wind and rain. I really don't know what to do. ... Only God knows what he will do for us," she said.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Emily could dump as much as 20 inches of rain on parts of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

Haiti is especially vulnerable to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides because of what experts describe as its near-total deforestation.

Photo shows a homeless shelter on the malecon as tropical storm Emily arrives to Santo Domingo August 3, 2011.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

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