Laura leaves behind deadly destruction and years of cleanup in the Caribbean

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Street vendors cross a flooded street during Tropical Storm Laura in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Tropical Storm Laura battered the Dominican Republic and Haiti and heading for a possible hit on the Louisiana coast as a hurricane, along with Tropical Storm Marco. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

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While much of the focus has been on the one-two tropical punch as Tropical Storm Laura is expected to track into the Gulf of Mexico close behind Marco, Tropical Storm Laura first dealt residents throughout the Caribbean a strong uppercut over the weekend.

With wreckage still littered throughout and damage reports trickling in on Monday morning, the initial reports have painted a haunting picture for the island region. According to multiple outlets, the death toll stands at 13 with the likelihood of rising as more impacts are uncovered.

Laura’s heaviest punches rained down on Haiti on Sunday, drilling the island nation with widespread flooding. Nine lives from Haiti were lost while another two individuals are still missing. Some of the most notable flooding occurred across the western and southeastern portions of the country, where videos on social media showed intensely murky floodwaters washing over streets near the civil protection authority office.

Earlier in the day, Haitian Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe commented on the crisis when the death toll stood at five lives. “Five people are already dead, and it’s five too many,” he said, according to the Miami Herald.

As that toll rose, the tally included multiple children and the mother of a child who went missing after her vehicle was swept away by flash floods. Her 10-month-old son, who was in the vehicle with the mother at the time, is among the missing.

The first fatality came when a fallen tree crashed on a home in Anse-à-Pitre, a town near the Dominican Republic border. Inside the home was a 10-year-old girl who was killed.

In the aftermath of the destruction left by Laura, officials in Haiti are also cautioning residents to be aware of the other looming danger that hasn’t budged: COVID-19. While the country has a relatively low case rate of the pandemic, with 8,082 cases and 196 deaths as Monday, authorities have urged caution to prevent further spread as cleanup begins.

“Wear your masks and respect distances, especially in temporary shelters,” Interior Minister Audain Fils Bernadel said, according to Barrons. “With COVID, we have considerably less capacity in our shelters.”

Across the border, the Dominican Republic is also feeling the wrathful sting as cleanup efforts begin in the new week.

Of the four lives lost on the island, a 7-year-old boy and his mother died when their Santo Domingo house collapsed due to severe flooding, according to the Miami Herald.

Street vendors cross a flooded street during Tropical Storm Laura in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Tropical Storm Laura battered the Dominican Republic and Haiti and heading for a possible hit on the Louisiana coast as a hurricane, along with Tropical Storm Marco. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Recently-elected Dominican President La Yuca Luis Abinadar told reporters that the impacts of this weekend’s intense storm would be felt for years. He also promised the crowd that plans would be enacted in order to prevent future tragedies around the ravines and rivers that are particularly prone to dangerous floods during storms.

“It will take us several years,” Abinader said, according to NOLA.com. “We will relocate you to somewhere safe and help you with everything. The government is here for you.”

At its peak intensity, Laura left over 1 million Dominican Republic residents without power, according to the country’s electric utility, while another 1,050 Dominicans were forced to evacuate, according to Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia, the director of the Center of Emergency Operations.

In a press conference, the director added that roads and knocked down trees were complicating recovery efforts, particularly in the northern and eastern regions of the country. According to BBC, another 20,000 Dominicans have been displaced by flooding with over 4,000 homes flooded, and a state of emergency was extended from four to eight provinces.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, impacts were dealt to the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Widespread power outages were reported throughout the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where at one point, over 200,000 residents were left in the dark in areas still recovering from Hurricane Maria.

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