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Saturday, August 25, 2012


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday August 24, 2012 – Having drenched much of the Eastern Caribbean, whipped up waves as high as ten feet (three metres), and left thousands of Puerto Ricans without power or water, Tropical Storm Isaac barrelled toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, threatening to strengthen into a Category One hurricane by the time it makes landfall today.

Yesterday, as Haiti began to feel the effects of the approaching storm, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers and to tape their windows.  He also advised them to ask relatives overseas to wire money to enable them to stock up on food and water.

Lamothe and other officials in the flood-prone country said that the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and that it had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations.

But while Haiti's government spent the day preparing for Isaac, others simply did not have the means. The idea of storm preparedness in a country where most of the population exists on about $2 a day was reportedly met with a shrug.

"We don't have houses that can bear a hurricane," Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp, told the Associated Press.

About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps that are mere clusters of shacks and tarps as a result of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Dominican Republic evacuated people living in low-lying areas yesterday. They nevertheless encountered some resistance from residents who feared their homes would be burgled in their absence.

The Dominican government planned to close all nine airports by dawn today, according to Alejandro Herrera, civil aviation director. Schools have been closed since yesterday afternoon.

Over in Cuba, the approach of the storm led military authorities at the US base in Guantanamo Bay to cancel pre-trial hearings for five prisoners charged in the September 11 attacks. They also evacuated about 200 people, including legal teams and relatives of September 11 victims.

Isaac also posed a threat to next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, where 70,000 delegates, journalists and protesters are expected to descend on the city.

Convention officials said they were working closely with state and federal authorities on monitoring the storm.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said some outside agencies that had planned to send officers to help with convention security in Tampa might be forced to keep them home to deal with a storm.

"My primary concern right now is that we will lose resources," he said.

Out in the eastern Atlantic, Tropical Storm Joyce continues to pose no immediate threat to land. The US Hurricane Centre in Miami said yesterday that the storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and that it was becoming disorganized.


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