MIAMI – Tropical Storm Laura hit on Sunday the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, leaving at least 12 people dead, communities devastated and a large amount of material damage.
Laura made landfall on Saturday night/Sunday morning in the Dominican Republic, soon thereafter hitting Haiti, but it had moved on toward Cuba by midday and by mid-afternoon it was in the stretch of water between Haiti and Cuba, according to information provided by Dominican authorities.
The preliminary reports on damage caused by Laura say that at least three people died on Sunday in the Dominican Republic due to torrential rains brought by the storm, which forced the evacuation of about 1,000 people and damaged some 210 homes.
A 44-year-old woman and her seven-year-old son were killed in a Santo Domingo neighborhood when their home collapsed due to heavy rains about 3:00 am, EFE learned.
The third victim was a man who has not yet been identified, and he died when a tree fell on his home in La Guayiga, a town located 22 kilometers (14 miles) from Santo Domingo.
In all, electricity distribution figures indicate that 1.1 million homes and businesses are without electric power in the southern and eastern part of the Dominican Republic and many sectors do not have potable water given that a number of pipelines require electricity to pump water and are offline because of the storm.
President Luis Abinader, who took office on Aug. 16, ordered on Sunday during his visit to the Los Rios sector the repair of homes affected by Laura and promised a comprehensive plan to relocate people living near rivers and other watercourses in various parts of the country.
The Dominican government also began distributing food rations to people affected by the storm.
In Haiti, meanwhile, at least nine people died on Sunday amid extremely heavy rains and landslides caused by Laura, according to a new preliminary count released by the country’s Civil Protection Directorate. Authorities also said that two people were missing.
Among the fatalities in Haiti is a 10-year-old girl, who died when a tree fell on her home in downtown Anse-a-Pitres, a town on the border with the Dominican Republic. Other victims include a woman who was swept away by rushing flood waters in Marbial, while two men and a woman lost their lives in different spots around Port-au-Prince and several others died in other parts of the country.
Haitian President Jovenel Moise expressed on Sunday his condolences to the families of the dead and called on the public to follow the instructions of the authorities to protect themselves during “this bad weather,” as per a message he posted on his official Twitter account.
He also visited the National Emergency Operations Center on Sunday afternoon with other government officials to determine what the needs of the public are in the zones hit by the storm.
Haiti is still on red alert for the storm and emergency organizations are issuing calls to evacuate high-risk zones, while many roadways are completely blocked to traffic and several cities have been flooded, including a number of neighborhoods in the capital.
Estimates are that two million people could be affected by the heavy rains and flooding in Haiti, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Laura, meanwhile, is strengthening as it heads toward Cuba, while Hurricane Marco is moving through the Gulf of Mexico toward the US Gulf Coast.
Laura’s path will next take it over eastern Cuba with sustained winds of 85 kilometers (53 miles) per hour, a little stronger than they were on Sunday morning, and it will probably move across the entire Antilles island chain, according to the storm’s projected path as calculated by the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
At 2:00 pm, the eye of the system was located 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the extreme eastern point of Cuba and 130 kilometers (81 miles) southeast of the city of Guantanamo.
With the tropical storm warning for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic now rescinded, Laura is beginning to affect the eastern Cuban provinces, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The NHC graphic shows that Laura will leave Cuba behind on Tuesday, moving into the Gulf of Mexico and continuing on its path toward the US Gulf Coast as a hurricane.
This would reportedly be the very first time since records have been kept (starting in 1900) that two hurricanes have been located in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously.
A slight turn toward the west has shifted the storm’s path a bit farther from the Florida Keys, according to the NHC projections.
At this point, Laura is moving west-northwest at a speed of 33 kph (20 mph).
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Marco had increased to hurricane strength by midday on Sunday after threatening the Mexican coast on the Yucatan Peninsula, and it is now heading directly for the US state of Louisiana, where it could make landfall on Monday afternoon.
The NHC said that a US Air Force hurricane-monitoring aircraft found that Marco is packing maximum sustained winds of 120 kph (74 mph) with even stronger gusts.
The strength of the storm leads authorities to expect storm surge and hurricane force winds along portions of the US Gulf Coast.
At 2:00 pm, Hurricane Marco’s eye was located 450 kilometers (279 miles) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 710 kilometers (440 miles) southeast of the city of Lafayette, Louisiana.
Marco is currently moving to the northwest at 22 kph (about 14 mph) and is expected to weaken once it makes landfall.
The two storms could hit the state of Louisiana within a 48-hour period, and local residents still remember the horror brought by Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, and was one of the most devastating storms anywhere in the world in the last 30 years, causing almost 2,000 fatalities.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned on Sunday that there will not be enough time to respond to the damage caused by Hurricane Marco before Tropical Storm Laura hits some parts of the state, and he asked residents to be prepared to take care of themselves for the next 72 hours.
At a press conference, the governor noted, in particular, that authorities would not have enough time to dispatch rescue helicopters or extract personal vehicles from high flood waters brought by Marco, among other things, before Laura hits the state.
Emergency measures to prepare for Marco and Laura are also being taken in the neighboring states of Texas and Mississippi, which are also likely to see heavy rain, storm surge and flooding.