6 dead in Haiti as Tomas strengthens back into a hurricane


November 06, 2010|By the CNN Wire Staff

Leogane was one of the hardest-hit cities after Hurricane Tomas blew through Haiti.

Having spent its fury on Haiti, Tomas strengthened Saturday back into a hurricane as it spun into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Earlier in the day, Tomas was downgraded to a tropical storm from a hurricane, but the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said Saturday evening that the storm’s winds had increased to 80 mph (130 kph), making it a Category 1 hurricane. Tomas currently poses no threat to land.

As of 9 p.m. ET, the storm was about 260 miles (415 kilometers) north-northeast of Grand Turk Island, according to the center, and moving north-northeast at 15 mph (24

Forecasters said the storm should decrease in speed as early as Saturday night and weaken again during the next 48 hours.

In Haiti, a nation still grappling with the effects of a killer earthquake and a deadly cholera outbreak this year, Tomas destroyed houses and turned some streets into rivers. Six people were also killed by the storm, according to the Haitian Civil Protection Authority.

In Leogane, west of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, water several feet deep rushed through the town’s streets.

Tomas passed within about 140 miles (230 kilometers) of Port-au-Prince. The storm also dumped more than 10 inches of rain in the Dominican Republic.

“We were expecting something perhaps a little larger, but it’s still quite significant,” said Francois Desruisseaux, an emergency team leader with CARE in Haiti.

The threat of ongoing rain remains, though, as does the possibility of the spread of waterborne diseases, Desruisseaux said.

Mudslides also remain a risk because many of the nation’s mountains have been stripped of vegetation, which means rain can flow downhill relatively unimpeded, said CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf.

“We could see mudslides a week after the storm has passed,” Wolf said.

Aid workers were already struggling to keep up with the cholera outbreak, which has killed nearly 450 people and hospitalized about 7,000. The bacterial disease causes diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to deadly dehydration within hours.

January’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed 250,000 people and left another 1 million homeless. Many of those Haitians have been living in tent camps and aid workers had been working in recent days to move the residents to safer housing, which was difficult to find.