Originally: Haiti Hit Hard by Tropical Storm Jeanne
You may remember the devastating flash floods that struck Haiti some four months ago. That catastrophic event was triggered by a slow moving tropical depression that sat over the island of Hispaniola (which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) and poured rain for several days.
Hispaniola is a mountainous island that used to be dominated by tropical rainforests. The Dominican Republic has managed to keep a large part of its rainforest while the situation in Haiti is very different. Rampant deforestation has left the mountains with sparse vegetation. When heavy rain comes there is little to absorb it, consequently the water runs off in huge volumes creating flash floods. The steep topography and scant vegetation means that landslides are also a major problem.
Tropical storm Jeanne has been in the Caribbean for a few days now. On reaching Hispaniola it destroyed hundreds of homes and killed 11 people in the Dominican Republic. By the time it pulled away from Haiti yesterday, there was further destruction and at least another 90 deaths.
The deforestation issue was probably at the heart of the matter once again as official reports talk of roads becoming rivers before being washed away, rivers bursting their banks and massive mudslides.
The northwest coastal town of Gonaives, home to some 200,000 people, was hit hard by the muddy floodwaters with thousands of people left stranded on rooftops, above the waist deep mire.
Thankfully Jeanne headed out into open waters yesterday and is no longer expected to hit the southeast USA.
Out in the Atlantic, the fifth major Hurricane of the season, Hurricane Karl continues to intensify. It is now a Category 4 Hurricane with sustained winds of 135mph. At the moment it poses no threat land and nor does the next system – Tropical Depression 13 is in the Atlantic, developing and moving west