HAVANA, August 29 (AFP) Erika broke up as it raked Cuba Saturday, bringing the drought-parched island heavy rains after the tropical storm left at least 20 dead in the tiny island nation of Dominica the day before.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the storm had degenerated into a “trough of low pressure” and was just off the southeastern coast of Cuba, 205km east of the city of Camaguey, at 1330 GMT (9pm Malaysia).
In Cuba, the heavy rains came as welcome news to an island enduring its worst drought since 1901.
“The rains, at times intense, … are received with pleasure, given the intense drought that affects this region since the end of last year,” the official Cuban news agency Prensa Latina said.
Remnants of the storm are expected to move up the island throughout the day.
It was still packing maximum sustained winds of 55km per hour, according to the NHC, which said storm warnings had been lifted but warned the low pressure system should be followed with interest in Cuba and the Bahamas.
The storm’s passage came exactly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina battered parts the southern United States, devastating New Orleans in particular.
The storm dumped heavy rains on the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but its deadliest impact was on the tiny island of Dominica, which was still recovering.
Floods and mudslides unleashed by the storm left scenes of devastation in the island of about 72,000 people.
“The visual damage I saw today, I fear, may have set our development process back by 20 years,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said Friday after surveying the damage.
“Of greatest concern however, is the loss of life. So far we have confirmed that at least 20 citizens have died, and some are missing,” he said.
Highways sustained widespread damage and bridges were washed away, he said.
Flooding in Haiti
After pounding Dominica, Erika drenched Haiti where authorities set up emergency shelters across the country. Aid was stocked at temporary shelters to help displaced people.
According to an initial tally, two people were injured in the Port-au-Prince region when a house collapsed. Flooding was reported in two regions after heavy rains.
Many homes in Haiti are rickety at best and more than 60,000 people are still living in emergency housing around Port-au-Prince following the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation’s infrastructure.
Haiti is located on the western half of the island of Hispaniola, which also includes the Dominican Republic.
Erika was expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of three to six inches (7.6-15.2cm) with maximum amounts of 10 inches possible across portions of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and eastern Cuba through Sunday, the hurricane centre said.
“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the centre said in a statement.
Dominican Republic authorities had issued a red alert as schools, beaches and ports were closed and civil protection organizations were ordered to be at the ready.