Hurricane Tomas was finally fizzling out on Saturday after a week-long Caribbean rampage that killed at least 21 people and left coastal communities in Haiti underwater.
The National Hurricane Centre in Miami said that the storm was losing steam over the open Atlantic after passing the British territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands with winds of up to 70mph, heavy rain and tornadoes.
In Haiti, parts of which endured a 24-hour beating, residents who lost homes and loved ones in January’s earthquake faced disaster once again as their encampments in the seaside town of Leogane were deluged when a local river burst its banks, washing away their few possessions.
Some took to the streets in the middle of the storm to protest the government’s failure to fix the infrastructure in Leogane, which was 90 per cent destroyed in the earthquake.
In the capital, Port au Prince, situated 20 miles further east, several of the tented camps and shantytowns, which house the majority of the 1.3 million earthquake refugees, were awash with mud and water, which President René Préval warned could be breeding a bigger threat.
An outbreak of cholera, transmitted through contaminated food and water, has already killed 442 people and infected nearly 7,000 in the last three weeks.
“We have two catastrophes that we are managing; the first is the hurricane and the second is cholera,” said President Preval in a radio address from the presidential palace.
“Now that, relatively speaking, Haiti has escaped the danger, we have to continue to be vigilant. You can end up surviving the storms, but dying of cholera,” he added.
But aid officials said that while the overall picture was still being assessed – and that some communities in the south-west had yet to be reached after floods and mudslides blocked access and bridges were rendered unusable – Haiti appeared to have avoided the wholesale disaster that many had feared.
“We prepared for the worst and we have been lucky that that scenario hasn’t materialised,” said Alistair Burnett, recovery operations manager for the British Red Cross, speaking from Port au Prince.
“In the perspective of what could have happened, then we have been fortunate. But with everything Haiti already has on its hands, the challenge is how we move forward over the next 12 months to get people into a better situation. And we can’t be complacent with cholera at our door.”
Poverty, corruption, political instability and a series of disasters have frustrated attempts to improve Haiti’s prospects over many decades and less than 38 per cent of the money pledged by the international community to help post-earthquake reconstruction has yet been handed over.
Public frustration over the slow recovery is likely to be a strong influence at parliamentary and presidential elections due later this month.
In St Lucia, which suffered widespread damage and 14 deaths when Hurricane Tomas tore through earlier in the week, the prime minister appealed for $500 million (£312.5 million) in aid to get his country back on its feet.
Among the priorities was the restoration of fresh water supply, after St Lucia’s main dam – which pumps eight million gallons a day – was put out of action.
It was the worst storm in St Lucia’s history and wiped out its entire banana crop, which along with tourism is the island’s main economic driver.
Prime Minister Stephenson King said that he had increased his earlier estimate of $100 million in damage after touring the island by helicopter.
The scale of the destruction, he said, “really and truly devastated my own psyche.”
For the original report and a gallery of photos go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/haiti/8114720/Hurricane-Tomas-finally-losing-steam.html