Sudden storm blasts through Haitian capital, sending panic into tent cities

By Jonathan M. Katz, AP
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sudden storm blasts through Haitian tent cities

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Powerful winds from a freak rainstorm tore down trees, billboards and the tent homes of earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince on Friday.

The storm passed quickly through the mountain-ringed bowl of the Haitian capital, exposing rubble-filled neighborhoods to no more than a few minutes of wind and rain. But that was enough to provoke panic and chaos, especially in tent and tarp cities still home to more than 1.3 million people more than eight months after the Jan. 12 quake.

Gales sent tarps and poles flying, threw tin roofs into the sky and opened family shacks to falling rain. Wind rattled walls and windows of standing buildings with a clamor reminiscent of the quake itself.

“It was just a storm. Just a wind put us in a corner!” said Bresil Vignion, standing in the wreckage of his family’s tin shack in a camp along the Canape-Vert road. “Tonight we don’t know where we are going to sleep.”

Haitian radio did not immediately have reports of deaths or injuries. Cell phone reception was degraded for several hours after the storm, making it difficult to reach local authorities.

The sudden storm was not associated with any tropical system, Michael Lowry of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami told The Associated Press. Meteorologists saw only a low-pressure system move across the Greater Antilles.

But for those living in this ravaged city, where reconstruction has barely begun, it was a forceful reminder of the danger still posed to a vulnerable country by an active Atlantic hurricane season months from being over.

“After what happened today, we hope we don’t get a second one like it,” said Patricia Pierre-Saint, a 47-year-old phone-card vendor who lost her home, child and husband in the quake.

Associated Press Television journalist Pierre-Richard Luxama contributed to this report

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