Only plastic between Haiti homeless and storms

Thu Feb 25, 2010 1:47pm EST
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By Olesya Dmitracova

LONDON (Reuters) - Seasonal rains and hurricanes spell trouble for Haiti in the best of times, but with hundreds of thousands of people living in flimsy makeshift shelters after last month's earthquake, this year the dangers are much greater.

The rainy season begins in earnest in early April and the hurricane season in early June, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Both can be deadly.

"If a hurricane hits Haiti head on, the loss of life will be severe and every temporary housing camp will be wiped out," Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of non-profit design and building group Architecture for Humanity, wrote in a blog.

Margareta Wahlstrom, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva, offers a similar warning for the Haitian capital.

It bore the brunt of the January 12 earthquake, which has killed up to 300,000 people.

"Port-au-Prince is built on vulnerable small slopes and mountains. With the rains, these slopes start softening up and cause mudslides like we have seen in the past, causing schools to collapse and more deaths," she told Reuters AlertNet.

A series of storms in Haiti in 2008 already showed the extent of damage they can cause, even to sturdy buildings. More than 800 people were killed and nearly 1 million left homeless or in dire need of help.

Haiti is extremely vulnerable to floods and mudslides because most of its hillsides have been stripped bare.   Continued...

<p>A woman exits a tent that was erected over the remains of a house at Fort National neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 24, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>