Hundreds evacuated as TS Noel approaches

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, October 29, 2007 – Strong winds and heavy rains are affecting Haiti and the Dominican where newly upgraded Tropical Storm Noel made landfall on Monday.

With sustained winds of 50mph and gusts of 65mph – nearly that of a hurricane – Noel is threatening the ecologically fragile country with life-threatening landslide.

The storm is expected to weaken briefly as environmental factors steer it towards the northwest towards eastern Cuba, forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said.

They expect that after it leaves Haiti it should strengthen again.

Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of Haiti’s civil protection agency said they were working hard to ensure that everyone knows about the storm.

Limited communication will hamper them from knowing immediately the kind of damage that the storm does.

In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island with Haiti, Noel has already triggered landslides, flooded rivers, and pushed storm surge towards its southern coastline. At least 600 people have been evacuated.

Tropical Storm Noel is expected to dump up to 12 inches of rain on Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.

Watches or warnings are in effect for those three countries as well the southeast and central Bahamas and the provinces of Granma, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, and Holguin in Cuba where a hurricane watch has also been raised.

At 0500am EDT, the centre of Noel was located near 18.0 north and 72.3 west or about 40 miles south of Port au Prince, Haiti.

The cyclone is moving towards the north-northwest near 6mph. The centre is expected to pass over southwestern Haiti during Monday.

Tropical storm force winds extend up to 140 miles mainly from the east of the centre and estimated minimum central pressure is 1002mb.