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Hurricane Irene, a growing threat to islands in the Caribbean

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24 August 2011, Geneva —Hurricane Irene the first of this season is currently moving through the Caribbean and is expected to continue its projected path throughout the day.

Haiti remains on red alert, receiving torrential rains of 2-6 inches (with isolated areas receiving 5-10 inches). “The next 24 hours will be crucial. Heavy rains have been reported overnight and Haitian Red Cross assessment teams have been called to floods in Ounaminthe in the North East” said Marcel Goyeneche, Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). In addition, the local committee of the Haitian Red Cross has reported two casualties from a river flooding its banks in Marmaelade, Artibonite. The IFRC, in support of the Haitian Red Cross, has activated its emergency plans in Haiti, with millions of Red Cross SMS being sent country wide to inform people of the impending storm and to advise people of simple steps to take to keep safe.

In the Dominican Republic 24 provinces are on red alert and the remaining 8 are in yellow alert; heavy rains started around noon yesterday in the northern provinces. The latest National EOC report indicates that “11,157 people have been displaced, 1,407 are staying in 22 shelters and 9,750 are staying with family/friends. A total of 26 houses have been severely or slightly affected and twenty-six communities are currently isolated to cresting rivers”. Mandatory evacuations in villages downstream of the Sabana Yegua Sabaneta and Valdesia dams have been put in effect. Damage and needs assessment teams have been deployed in Guandules located in the National District of Santo Domingo, but no reports have been issues as of yet.

Puerto Rico was also affected by Irene which left about 1-3 inches of rain and caused the overflow of five rivers (Rio Blanco, Rio Grande Manati, Rio Fajardo, Rio Loiya, and Rio La Plata). Approximately 1 million residents are without power and approximately 28 percent without water as of Monday evening.

Irene is currently impacting Turks and Caicos as a category 2 hurricane. Businesses are closed while the hurricane moves through the area, but all community shelters remain open. The RC has been meeting with the National Emergency office, activating volunteers to provide first aid support to shelters as preparation for Irene’s arrival. According to the National Hurricane Centre the main threat to the island will be hurricane force winds.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the south-eastern region of the Bahamas by late Wednesday with category 3 hurricane conditions possible by Thursday,. A storm surge could raise water levels 9-13 feet above normal in Central Bahamas with 5-10 inches of rainfall expected in the south-eastern and central Bahamas. The Prime Minister in the Bahamas addressed the population this morning and advised persons to prepare themselves. The American Red Cross and PADRU are currently coordinating information. The RC has also prepositioned supplies in the countryto be used if needed.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil¬lion people each year through its 186 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Haiti:
• Becky Webb, communications coordinator, IFRC
Mobile : +509 34919813 – E-mail : becky.webb@ifrc.org

In Americas Zone
• Enrique Jair Guevara, emergency communications officer, Americas Zone, IFRC
Mobile : +507 66707365 – E-mail : enrique.guevara@ifrc.org

In Geneva:
• Paul Conneally, public communications manager, IFRC
Mobile: +41 79 308 98 09 – E-mail: paul.conneally@ifrc.org