Haiti in peril as Tomas gains strength
Hurricane forecasters say they see signs of strengthening in Tropical Storm Tomas, and the storm is still expected to regain hurricane strength before striking Haiti and the island of Hispaniola late this week.
Tomas on Tuesday morning was located 355 miles south of Port au Prince, Haiti, moving to the west at 12 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 50 mph, up a bit from yesterday's reading. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said they see an intensification of thunderstorms near the storm's central low, and signs of banding features in some quadrants - both indicators of increased organization.
Predictions have Tomas regaining hurricane strength early on Thursday, and making a sharp turn toward the north and then northeast, reaching Haiti by late Friday or early Saturday.
Needless to say, the Haitian people are unprepared for a hurricane. An estimated 1.3 million people displaced by last January's earthquake remain in makeshift shelters and crowded camps. Minor storms this fall have resulted in deaths, injuries and the destruction of thousands of family shelters. On top of that, the country is fighting to contain an outbreak of cholera outside the capital.
International aid agencies are rushing supplies to staging areas in preparation for the expected storm. But with so many people in the relocation camps, it is considered impossible to move them all to secure shelters during the storm. Preparations include sandbagging, digging drainage ditches in the camps, and distributing tarps and ropes.
Such relief supplies are short, and aid groups say promised earthquake aid, including $1.15 billion from the United States, has not arrived. This has the makings of yet another calamity for Haiti, and we will likely be reading a lot about it this weekend and next week.
(PHOTO: Reuters, Eduardo Munoz; tent camp north of Port au Prince)