AFP reports that Haitians desperately need a new hurricane alert system because its communications were largely destroyed by January’s devastating earthquake, experts warned Monday. Scientists from 30 countries focused on how to improve meteorological services in Haiti to prevent further disasters as they began three days of meetings in Bermuda. “One of the areas they will be looking at will be better communications and dissemination possibilities,” Robert Masters of the World Meteorological Organization told AFP by telephone as the hurricane committee convened. Masters said about 80 percent of Haitians would normally be informed of any imminent hurricane threat by tuning in to their televisions or radios. “But now with the earthquake this was reduced to 20 percent because people don’t have electricity, don’t have television and radios,” he said. “So it’s important to find new way to disseminate information to be sure people are warned in the face of severe weather.” The scientists are expected to recommend to governments providing aid to Haiti that a storm alert system must be created if a new disaster is to be avoided.
Haiti is on the island of Hispaniola in an area of the Caribbean prone to tropical storms. The hurricane season — from June to November — often brings death and grief to the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation, which has few of its moisture-absorbing tropical forests remaining. In the 2008 hurricane season, Haiti was pounded by four storms that left more than 800,000 people homeless and devastated its agriculture. Last year, Haiti, the Caribbean, and the US mainland were spared from major storms during a relatively calm hurricane season.
Haiti’s earthquake flattened most of the capital Port-au-Prince, killing more than 220,000 people and destroying half the nation’s economy, according to government estimates. Another 1.3 million people have been left homeless since the January 12 quake.
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Image: One of the photos of the 2008 floods in Haiti fo rwhich Patrick Farrell won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize.