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article image13 killed as flooding and mudslides add to misery in Haiti

By Chris Dade     Mar 1, 2010 in World
As the operation continues to bring relief to those affected by the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, a region of the country largely unaffected by that quake was hit by floods and mudslides at the weekend that resulted in at least 13 deaths.
Les Cayes, a city said to be the third largest in Haiti, with a permanent population of 70,000, has witnessed a large of influx of people in recent weeks as survivors of the January disaster flee the areas around and in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince worst affected by the earthquake.
And at the weekend Les Cayes, some 100 miles (160 km) from Port-au-Prince, was hit by floods and mudslides that not only killed at least 13 people but also underlined the difficulties that will confront relief workers in Haiti, and the people they are trying to help, when the Caribbean nation's rainy season begins in earnest within the next two months.
Furthermore, some three months after the rainy season begins, Haiti finds itself vulnerable to hurricanes that the Science and Development Network reported in January are likely to be fewer in number during the course of this century, yet "stronger and more destructive".
As many as 3,000 people may have been killed during the 2008 hurricane season in Haiti and Weather Underground has provided an analysis of the suffering Haiti has endured at the hands of hurricanes since the 1930s and what can be done to lessen the impact of the hurricane season on the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Jean-Yves Placide, regional president of the Haitian National Red Cross Society, said that rain fell all day Sunday in the Les Cayes area.
He explained:The poor state of the sewers caused flooding in every quarter of the city. In some places the waters rose to ceiling level in people’s houses
adding in respect of those who had come to Les Cayes to escape the earthquake-affected area around Port-au-Prince:There are many people living in the streets who could not sleep last night. The situation will be really worrying if it continues to rain. The sun is out now, but the storm clouds come and go
Reuters, which is one of the sources putting the number of deaths caused by the flooding at 13, possibly more, quotes a Haitian government official, Joseph Yves-Marie Aubourg, as saying:At one point, people had to climb on the roofs of their homes ... Les Cayes was flooded by more than 60 percent
The Guardian notes that houses collapsed under the force or weight of the water, while occupants of other buildings were trapped inside their homes.
People were trapped inside cars and five deaths were reportedly of people inside a car that was swept away by the flood waters.
Some 3,500 people had to be evacuated from their homes in the Les Cayes area and, says Caribbean Net News/AFP, 500 inmates at the city's prison were evacuated also.
Furthermore patients at a local hospital had to be moved to higher floors in order to be safe from the 60-inch (1.5-meter) deep waters that flooded the city on the Southwest coast of Haiti.
Iain Logan is head of operations for the IFRC in Port-au-Prince and he said of the situation in a country where it is feared the death toll from the January earthquake could reach 300,000 and where between 1.3 million and 1.5 million homeless people are living in "tent camps" that are possible breeding grounds for diseases such as cholera and typhoid:In addition to our earthquake response, we’re taking action to scale up preparations for the hurricane season, which starts around the middle of the year. The early floods in Les Cayes are a sharp reminder that the very significant disaster preparedness effort we started after the 2008 hurricanes will have to be expanded and adapted.
We face an almost unique set of circumstances generated by a catastrophic quake, a rainy season, and a hurricane season, one after the other in rapid succession
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