The Toronto Star: Haiti dodges Tomas’s worst

Published On Sat Nov 06 2010
Hatians walk along a flooded road in Leogane, 33km south of Port-au-Prince, on November 6, 2010.Hatians walk along a flooded road in Leogane, 33km south of Port-au-Prince, on November 6, 2010. THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Isabeau Doucet Special to the Star

PORT-AU-PRINCE—This earthquake-ravaged city was mercifully spared by Hurricane Tomas as it merely grazed Haiti before heading on into open seas Saturday.

But the storm did leave flooding in its wake, which aid workers fear could worsen the existing cholera outbreak. The death toll was reported to have risen to eight by Saturday night.

In Leogane, the town closest to the epicentre of the Jan. 12 earthquake, 95 per cent of the downtown was flooded, officials said. Roads have turned into rivers. A refugee tent camp set up on an expressway median has been turned into an island.

The real fear now is that the flooding will help spread of the cholera epidemic the country was just gearing up to contain when Tomas appeared.

Many of the cholera treatment field hospitals had to be dismantled as a precaution.

The official death toll from cholera was 442 on Thursday, and jumped to 501 on Friday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. There were well over 7,300 hospitalized cases.

“We do expect the infection rate to jump up due to the flooding and to the bad sanitation conditions in many areas,” Christian Lindmeier, spokesman in Haiti for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, told Reuters.

Dr. Kara Gibson, the Canadian medical director of Samaritan’s Purse, one of the few hospitals operating in Cité Soleil, the capital’s poorest slum, told the Star that once cholera takes hold of the district, “it will be huge.”

She has been here since the earthquake and diagnosed cholera a week and a half ago in a patient who hadn’t left the slum.

She hasn’t seen any more cases since but is worried the disease is getting closer.


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