Emily Breaks After Soaking Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Tropical Storm Emily broke apart Thursday and became a wet low pressure system after dumping rains over Haiti and the southwestern corner of the Dominican Republic, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The center said all hurricane watches and warnings had been canceled but heavy rains were continuing to fall over the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the two countries. Flooding and mudslides were still a threat.

Emily dropped more than 5 inches (140 millimeters) around the southwestern Dominican city of Barahona, prompting the government to order the evacuation of more than 5,000 people.

With about 600,000 Haitians still living in flimsy tents and shanties because of the January 2010 earthquake, strong winds whipped through palm trees in Haiti’s capital while heavier rains fell farther north, damaging homes and a cholera treatment center, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, the country’s civil defense director. But there were no reports of deaths.

A river in Haiti’s central Artibonite Valley rose to dangerous levels late in the day, threatening to inundate at least 50 small cinderblock and wooden houses in L’Estere. It has been raining in that area for weeks, but the added rain from Emily brought the chocolate-brown L’Estere River to the edge of its banks.

Associated Press journalists accompanied a government worker who warned people to leave their homes. Most refused, however, fearing to leave their belongings behind in the remote area.

In the capital, which has most of those left homeless by the earthquake, the rain was relatively light so far, but the government evacuated a few families from a camp for quake victims to a school, said Jean-Joseph Edgard, an administrator in Haiti’s Civil Protection Department.

About a hundred people were staying in temporary shelters in the southern beach town of Jacmel and 25 inmates from a jail in the coastal town of Mirogoane were taken to a nearby police station, said Emmanuelle Schneider, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.

Schneider said the U.N. mission also sent heavy equipment to the Central Plateau to help repair a road cut by flooding. A team of sanitation specialists also traveled to the area to help stem the flow of cholera after a treatment center for the waterborne disease flooded.

The storm seemed to pause Thursday morning, then resumed a slow advance to the west-northwest off Hispaniola. Emily earlier had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph).

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