Tomas moves away from land; mudslides remain threat in Haiti

Hurricane Tomas killed six people and left a trail of destroyed homes in Haiti as it continued moving away from land Sunday. However, Haitians could still grapple with effects from Tomas after the hurricane dissipates.

The hurricane was expected to weaken in the next few days as it churns away from the Americas into the Atlantic Ocean.

As of late Saturday night, Tomas was about 275 miles (440 kilometers) north-northeast of Grand Turk Island and about 570 miles (915 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

The hurricane carried maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) and was headed north-northeast at at 10 mph (17 kph), the Hurricane Center said. Tomas currently poses no threat to land.

In Haiti, a nation still grappling with the effects of a killer earthquake and a deadly cholera outbreak this year, Tomas ruined houses and turned some streets into rivers. Six people were also killed by the storm, according to the Haitian Civil Protection Authority.

January’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed 250,000 people and left 1 million more homeless. Many of those Haitians have been living in tent camps, and aid workers had been working in recent days to move the residents to safer housing, which was difficult to find.

Aid workers were already struggling to keep up with the cholera outbreak, which has killed 501 people since the first cases were reported in October. An additional 7,000 are hospitalized. The bacterial disease causes diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to deadly dehydration within hours.

In Leogane, west of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, residents waded in knee-deep water after Tomas. Box trucks got stuck in water, said relief worker Roseann Dennery of Samaritan’s Purse.

While the flooding receded somewhat over the weekend, the threat of waterborne disease remained a concern.

“Samaritan’s Purse is moving quickly to set up cholera treatment centers in areas where there currently aren’t any, and where new cases are appearing as the bacteria continues to spread,” Dennery said.

Mudslides also remain a risk because many of the nation’s mountains have been stripped of vegetation, which means rain can flow downhill relatively unimpeded, said CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf.

“We could see mudslides a week after the storm has passed,” Wolf said.

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