Storm lashes city on coast that was already in ruins, the Associate Press reports.
Hurricane Tomas flooded camps of earthquake refugees yesterday, turning some into squalid islands as it battered Haiti’s rural western tip.
The storm largely spared the vast homeless encampments in the shattered capital.
Driving 85 mph winds and a lashing storm surge battered Leogane, a seaside town west of Port-au-Prince that was 90 percent destroyed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
“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 of one refugee camp.
Four deaths were confirmed by Haitian officials, all people attempting to cross rivers by car or on foot in the mountainous region near Leogane, on Haiti’s far southwestern tip. Two more people were missing in Leogane. Earlier, Tomas killed at least 14 people in the eastern Caribbean.
The storm came ashore yesterday as a Category 1 hurricane, pummeling Haiti’s southern peninsula, before moving on to the rest of the country, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas.
It could be days before the storm’s impact on Haiti is known as reports filter in from isolated mountain towns cut off by the flooding.
“We have two catastrophes that we are managing. The first is the hurricane, and the second is cholera,” President Rene Preval told the nation in a television and radio address.
Aid workers are concerned that the storm will worsen Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 440 people and sent more than 6,700 others to hospitals. Haitian authorities had urged the 1.3 million Haitians left homeless by the earthquake to leave the camps and go to the homes of friends and family. Buses were sent to take those who wanted to evacuate to shelters.
But many chose to stay, fearing they would come back to find that they had been evicted from the private land where they have been camped out since the quake in donated plastic tarps, or that their few possessions would be stolen before they returned.
A near-riot broke out amid a poorly coordinated relocation effort at the government’s flagship camp at Corail-Cesselesse when residents began overturning tables and throwing bottles to protest what they saw as a forced removal.
About a third of the camp’s nearly 8,000 residents ultimately went to shelters in a nearby school, church and hospital, American Refugee Committee camp manager Bryant Castro said.
In Leogane, protesters took to the streets in the pouring rain, beating drums and blasting horns as they lambasted officials for failing to build a canal along a river that has overflowed repeatedly in the past. Floodwaters filled people’s homes, swirling around the furniture and framed pictures.
“When it rains, the water rises and causes so much damage. We want them to dig a canal to move the water,” said Frantz Hilair, a 28-year-old motorcycle taxi driver. “We have a mayor and the deputy, but they don’t do anything.”
Farther north in Gonaives, a coastal city twice inundated by recent tropical storms, police evacuated more than 200 inmates from one prison to another.
U.S. Marines were standing by on the USS Iwo Jima off the coast with relief supplies.