As Hurricane Tomas bears down on Haiti, the U.S. State Department says the United States is well prepared to provide supplies and assistance.
Mark Ward, of the State Department's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, told reporters that his office has been preparing for a severe storm to hit Haiti for months. "Beginning in the early summer, we were doing assessments. We were pre-positioning supplies that we would need for heavy weather, things like hygiene kits and water containers, kitchen sets, blankets. We had enough in the country for 100,000 people," he said.
He said the U.S. increased stockpiles in Haiti during the past week to assist 125,000 people, and further supplies are available at a warehouse in Miami.
Ward said the U.S. has worked closely with the World Food Program, which has enough food stockpiled in 32 locations throughout Haiti to feed more than one million people for six weeks. He added that his office has deployed a 22-member disaster assistance response team, and the Navy's USS Iwo Jima, equipped with helicopters, landing craft and medical personnel, will soon be heading to the country.
The storm is expected to dump 12 to 25 centimeters of rain - with as many as 38 centimeters in isolated areas - in a country that is still grappling with the aftermath of January's earthquake. That quake devastated the capital Port-au-Prince and displaced more than one million people, many of whom still live in camps. Haitian officials say many have sought shelter elsewhere as Tomas approached.
"The Department of Civil Protection is estimating that 50 percent of the people in the camps did leave of their own accord overnight, mostly as we recommended, to stay with host families, with friends and family in safer housing," said Ward.
Ward said the Haitian government is reporting one fatality so far - a person who was killed while attempting to drive across a flooded area.