31 Oct 2010

Fears hurricane will hit quake struck Haiti

6:24 pm on 31 October 2010

Hurricane Tomas has battered east Caribbean islands ripping off roofs and downing trees and power lines on a westward track that will put earthquake-hit Haiti at risk next week.

Tomas, the 12th hurricane of a very active 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened as it swept over St. Lucia and St. Vincent in the Windward Islands, damaging homes, knocking out power and blocking roads with flooding and debris.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths.

Haiti's government and its international aid partners - already grappling with a major cholera epidemic that has killed at least 330 people and sickened more than 4,700 - are discussing contingency measures should the hurricane hit next week.

About 1.5 million survivors from January's devastating earthquake are living in tent and tarpaulin camps in the hilly capital of Port-au-Prince.

The US National Hurricane Center said Tomas was a Category One hurricane and had sustained winds of 150km/h.

Additional strengthening was forecast.

By Saturday evening, Tomas was moving away from St. Lucia and St. Vincent, heading westward into the eastern Caribbean sea, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

Forecasts showed Tomas strengthening on a track that would take it south of Dominican Republic and Haiti as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, with projected wind speed greater than 178km/h, by Tuesday.