CaribWorldNews, MIAMI, Fl, Fri. Nov. 5, 2010: Several Caribbean nations including Jamaica and Haiti were battening down for Tropical Storm Tomas last night as the squall moved closer to both nations.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami last night said Tomas was just 90 miles off Kingston and 265 miles off Port-Au-Prince, but moving closer in strength and could become a hurricane by the time it passes. The storm was set to reach both nations last night and also affect Cuba, the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos islands and the Dominican Republic.
Jamaica may be spared a direct hit by the storm as it has made a sharp turn to the north but Tomas could make its way across the western section of Haiti, the eastern section of Cuba and toward the Turks and Caicos islands.
A hurricane watch was in effect for Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos last night while a storm watch was in effect for Jamaica and the DR.
On Thursday, the UN said its agencies and its stabilization mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, have been working with the Government of Haiti and humanitarian partners to pre-position emergency supplies and equipment, including trucks, water and sanitation materials, shelter, food and non-food items in the areas most likely to be hit by the storm.
But officials added that the approaching storm may be the third humanitarian crisis that Haiti faces this year, coming amid ongoing efforts to assist up to a million people left homeless by the earthquake that devastated the country in January, and a cholera outbreak that erupted last month.
`Even with the existing pre-positioned stocks, the potential magnitude of this disaster urgently calls for additional emergency supplies and equipment,` warned Nigel Fisher, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti.
Priority needs include reinforced emergency shelter kits for 20,000 families, 80,000 family hygiene kits, 5,000 family water kits, 5 million sachets of oral rehydration salts, water tankers, water treatment units and field tents to serve as emergency cholera treatment centres, as well as logistics equipment and radios to support ongoing public information about cholera and hurricane alerts.
`We are concerned that severe flooding will make a difficult situation in Haiti even more difficult,` Fisher said. `Cholera is spread mainly through contaminated water – so more water poses more risks. The poor sanitary conditions in many parts of the country combined with flooding and polluted waters are very likely to accelerate the infection rate.`
Meanwhile, in an address to the nation, Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding said all disaster management systems have been placed on full alert.
`Even though the threat level to Jamaica is much less than we had previously feared, we cannot afford to let down our guard,` he said.
He also urged all Jamaican households, especially in the eastern sections of the island, to ensure that someone is awake at all times throughout the night so that the family can be alerted to any imminent danger.
And he called for prayer not just for Jamaicans but for nationals in Haiti, Cuba and the Turks and Caicos.
Tomas has already caused considerable damage in the eastern Caribbean, especially in St. Lucia where 14 persons lost their lives.