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Isaac’s destructive power hits Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba

By Jacqueline Charles, Juan Tamayo and Jim Wyss, The Miami Herald –

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti —The death toll in Haiti and the Dominican Republic continued to rise Sunday, as authorities struggled to recover form the damage left behind by Tropical Storm Isaac.

Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection said at least seven people had been killed, including a young man who died in a landslide in Dondon, in northern Haiti. Police in the Dominican Republic said two men drowned in swollen rivers.

The tourist town of Jacmel, in Haiti’s southern peninsula, was particularly hard hit. On Sunday, the town was cut off by rivers and partially collapsed roads. Fallen trees riddled the city even as cleanup crews were at work.

Cuba’s state-run Prensa Latina news agency said there were no deaths reported but sporadic damage. The island’s oldest and easternmost town, Baracoa, was hard hit. At least 89 homes were damaged, including four that completely collapsed, the agency said. The eastern province of Tunas also suffered damaged roads. While power and phone lines went down on the island overnight, electricity had been restored to most neighborhoods Sunday, the agency reported.

While the ragged storm system didn’t pack the punch some had feared, it generated havoc across a large swath of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Among Haiti’s dead was a 10-year-old girl in Thomazeau, a community north of Port-au-Prince. Also, government officials said a 7-year-old boy was electrocuted in the Artibonite Valley in Northwest Haiti, and United Nations police reported that a woman died in Jacmel when a tree fell on her.

While the worst of the storm had passed, there were fears that the rains it was pulling behind it might lead to further flooding in Haiti, where almost 400,000 earthquake victims are still living under tarps. There were also concerns that stagnant flood waters could exacerbate the nation’s ongoing cholera epidemic.

In the Dominican Republic, the storm forced more than 7,700 people to evacuate and damaged more than 250 homes, the Emergency Operation Center reported.

Near the sprawling Haitian shantytown of Cite Soleil, residents waded through knee-high water.

Power remained out in most of the capital Saturday after authorities cut electricity as a precaution.

The southern tourist city of Jacmel also lost power. As crews inspected the power grid, others worked to clear fallen trees, downed power lines and other debris from roads.

The Office of Civil Protection said that 5,000 people had been evacuated nationwide.

About 3,000 of the evacuees were from the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, who were relocated in the midst of the storm.

But many quake refugees had refused to move, fearing that thieves would steal their meager possessions or that the government and aid groups would use an evacuation as an opportunity to shut down camps.

“We’ve lived through this before. We’re not afraid,” said Lucien Pierre, 28, a mother of two, as she washed clothes outside her tent. “We’ll pray and watch.”

The flood-prone town of Les Cayes, on the southern peninsula, was largely spared. However, the tourist haven of Jacmel, about 80 miles east of Les Cayes, reported lots of damaged homes and missing roofs.

By Saturday evening, the rain was beginning to ease, but flooding remained a concern.

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