U.S. warns against travel to Haiti amid threat posed by Tropical Storm Tomas

November 2nd, 2010 - 10:18 pm ICT by BNO News  

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The U.S. government on Tuesday warned American citizens to avoid traveling to Haiti because of the threat posed by Tropical Storm Tomas, which is expected to hit the nation as a hurricane later this week.

As of late Tuesday morning, the center of Tropical Storm Tomas was located about 570 kilometers (355 miles) south of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. It is moving towards the west near 17 kilometers (10 miles) per hour and will likely reach disaster-stricken Haiti on Friday.

Tomas was previously a category one hurricane but weakened to a tropical storm as it moved over the Caribbean Sea. However, Tomas is expected to regain hurricane status soon.

“Tomas has certainly become better organized since yesterday, with a large area of deep convection and increased banding seen in conventional satellite and microwave data,” said John Cangialosi, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

Cangialosi said the exact track and intensity of Tomas remains uncertain, but urged residents in Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to monitor the progress of Tomas. “Regardless of the exact track and intensity of Tomas, it appears that the tropical cyclone will pose a significant threat of heavy rainfall over Haiti and the Dominican Republic later this week.”

Because of the threat posed by Tomas to Haiti, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for the nation that is still trying to recover from a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck close to Port-au-Prince on January 12, killing more than 230,000 people. Additionally, parts of Haiti are trying to cope with a cholera outbreak that has already claimed more than 330 lives.

“The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens there is a high probability that Tropical Storm Tomas may bring tropical storm force winds and heavy rains to Haiti later this week,” the travel alert said. “Even storms that do not reach hurricane strength have caused widespread damage and loss of life in Haiti in recent years. U.S. citizens who nevertheless plan travel to Haiti should defer travel until Tropical Storm Tomas has passed.”

The travel alert comes on top of a travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department on June 24 and advises U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Haiti due to limited infrastructure and access to basic services.

Officials believe a storm, especially a hurricane, could bring even more devastation to the poor country where many still live in tens after January’s earthquake. A brief but sudden rainstorm in September killed at least 5 people and injured hundreds more.

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