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Storm complicates earthquake response as it soaks Haiti

Haiti's civil protection agency asked people to open their doors to shelter those displaced by the earthquake as the storm affected the region.

Haiti, a country already reeling from the devastation of a deadly earthquake, was drenched on Monday by a tropical depression that brought heavy rains and winds.

Haiti's civil protection agency said that rain was complicating the situation of people displaced by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck in the southwest part of the country, toppling buildings and killing more than 1,400 people.

It asked anyone who was able to help authorities shelter the displaced. Heavy rain and strong winds whipped at the country’s southwestern area after nightfall, according to reports.

The storm system Grace had redeveloped into a tropical storm by 2 a.m. Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph as it moved over or near Haiti's Tiburon Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Extreme heavy rain was causing flooding in Hispaniola, it said. The center of the storm was about 230 miles east of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and moving west at 14 mph.

Image:
People affected by Saturday's earthquake stand under the rain of Tropical Depression Grace at a refugee camp in Les Cayes, Haiti, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.Joseph Odelyn / AP

At least 1,419 people died and more than 6,000 people were injured in the quake, Haiti's Office of Civil Protection said Monday. Searches continued for survivors. More than 37,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.

Parts of the country could see 15 inches of rain through Tuesday, according to the hurricane center, but forecasts were generally for between 5 and 10 inches.

"The immediate threat is still torrential rainfall across Hispaniola overnight, which will likely cause severe flooding in some locations," the hurricane center said in a forecast discussion.

The weather adds to the misery in the disaster-struck areas of the country.

The earthquake struck a little more than a month after the country's president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated. In 2010, there was a massive earthquake near the capital of Port-au-Prince, which the government estimates killed more than 300,000.

In the town of Les Cayes, the general hospital was reported to be overwhelmed with patients. Some residents waited for money wired from abroad.

Anthony Emile waited six hours with dozens of others trying to get money wired by his brother in Chile, where he has worked since the last earthquake.

"We have been waiting since morning for it, but there are too many people,” Emile, a banana farmer, told The Associated Press.

USAID and other groups are assisting in the disaster. Urban search and rescue team members were sent from Virginia, and the U.S. military sent helicopters, USAID said Monday.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been conducting medevac operations to get the injured to Port-au-Prince. President Joe Biden on Saturday said the United States would be there to help the people of Haiti.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has also pledged the U.N.'s support.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that humanitarian needs in the country are acute, and there are urgent needs like clean water. Fore said in a statement that the tropical depression could exacerbate damage from the earthquake and complicate search and rescue efforts.

Earlier Monday a different storm, Tropical Storm Fred, made landfall on the Florida panhandle in the United States.