PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Hurricane Elsa fell back to the strength of a tropical storm as it hurtled towards Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, but it was still threatening to cause floods and landslides before heading into Cuba and Florida Took visor.
The storm was located about 70 kilometers south of Isla Beata in the Dominican Republic and moving at 46 km / h from west to northwest. It had maximum sustained winds of 110 km / h as the tropical storm, which had been a Category 1 hurricane the previous Saturday, weakened as it approached Hispaniola and Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The long-term forecast showed it was heading for Florida as a tropical storm by Tuesday morning, but some models would carry it into the Gulf or up the Atlantic coast.
In Haiti, authorities used social media to warn people about the storm and asked them to evacuate if they lived near water or mountain slopes.
“The whole country is threatened,” said the civil protection agency. “Make an effort to escape before it’s too late.”
Haiti is particularly vulnerable to flooding and landslides due to widespread erosion and deforestation. In addition, a recent surge in gang violence has forced thousands of people to flee their homes leaving the civil protection agency running out of basic food and water supplies, director Jerry Chandler told The Associated Press.
“We have been supporting families fleeing gang violence for three weeks,” he said. “We are working on replenishing our stocks, but the biggest problem is the logistics.”
He said officials are still trying to figure out how to supply the southern region of Haiti as it prepares for the effects of Elsa.
Meanwhile, people were buying water and food as the storm approached.
â€œI protect myself as best I can. Civil protection won’t do that for me, â€said Darlene Jean-Pierre, 35, when she bought six jugs of water, including vegetables and fruit. â€œI have other road concerns … I have to worry about gangs fighting. We also have a hurricane. I don’t know what a disaster this will cause. “
A hurricane warning continues to apply from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince to Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic. A hurricane watch was issued for the Cuban provinces of CamagÃ¼ey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba. Some of these provinces have reported high numbers of COVID-19 infections, raising concerns that the storm could force large groups of people to seek shelter together.
“Looking ahead is the key,” said Cuban President Miguel DÃaz-Canel, adding that vaccination efforts would continue. “Let’s take care of life and property.”
In the neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, authorities opened more than 2,400 emergency shelters as meteorologists warned of heavy rains starting Saturday before sunrise.
Elsa was due to drive past the southernmost point of Hispaniola by Saturday afternoon and then target communities in southern Haiti.
The storm had already demolished roofs in the eastern Caribbean on Friday, destroyed crops and toppled trees and power lines in April.
At least 43 houses and three police stations were damaged, said St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
“We expect that number will increase as more reports come in,” he said. “We have some damage, but it could have been a lot worse.”
In St. Lucia, the wind damaged a secondary school, hit desks, toppled chairs and blew papers after blowing off the roof and siding.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico authorities rescued eight people, including two children, in stormy conditions after their boat sank in waves 2-3 meters high.
Elsa was the first hurricane of the Atlantic season and the earliest, fifth-name storm ever recorded. It is projected that parts of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica will fall 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain with a maximum total of 15 inches (38 centimeters).
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